Sunday, December 21, 2014

Making Time vs Finding Time

One of the most utilized excuses in education when it comes to change is lack of time. At one point or another, we have all used the time excuse when it comes to our professional work.  With all of the mandates and directives that are thrown our way, time becomes a relatively easy scapegoat when it comes to skirting the issue of change. Whether it be in the form of endless piles of paperwork, never ending observations, meetings with parents, attending events, developing a master schedule, or constructing a school budget – there never seemed like enough time in my day to even get those responsibilities done. It is never easy in the role of a teacher either. Lesson planning, grading, meeting with students before/after school, running clubs, and coaching all take up a great deal of their time as well.  Time is the number one enemy of needed change and improvement in my opinion.


Image credit: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7382/12354248703_f23b955afe.jpg

Let’s face the perceived fact that there will never be enough time in any of our days to get everything done.  Or is there? Regardless of your respective role in education, time will always be your enemy if you look at it with a fixed as opposed to a growth mindset. This is where you need to focus less on finding time and more on making time to complete necessary tasks that are not only required, but also ones that will allow you to grow, innovate, and develop more of a passion for your work. Before getting to this point you must look at how you currently utilize the time you have. In my case I was more of a manager as opposed to a leader. In response I began to either delegate the managerial aspects of my position as a principal to my assistants or I just got rid of obligatory routines shrouded in monotony such as certain meetings.  For teachers it is important to look at how time is spent during areas of opportunity during the day (i.e. prep periods, lunch) to see where a growth mindset can be employed.  

No matter how you slice it the time game will always be challenging, but there is hope. First and foremost, make the time to learn, grown, and get better as opposed to finding the time.  There is nothing more important to an educator, outside of working with kids, than professional learning. Carve out some time each day if possible. Through social media a Personal Learning Network (PLN) provides a great antidote to the age-old time excuse. You can now learn anywhere, with anyone, at anytime you want for free.  While online consider making some time to learn and then apply a new skill while earning a digital badge to acknowledge your informal learning.  As great as a PLN is to professional growth, make the time to connect face to face with colleagues at conferences and workshops. Hands-on learning and networking experiences are invaluable to any educator who aspires to and models life-long learning.

If you are an educational leader one of your responsibilities is to take the time excuse away from your staff.  Consider flipping your faculty meetings.  This concept is based on the popular flipped classroom model. When flipping a faculty meeting teachers are given informational items to read and view in advance. This results in a shift from a leader-driven meeting to one where leadership is distributed. Instead of reviewing items off an agenda, time is spent more creatively as teachers take on a more active, creative role. For example, a short video outlining the agenda items can be created and viewed by teachers beforehand. Or articles and data sets can be distributed prior to the meeting for staff to review.  Actual meeting time can then be dedicated to analyzing data, developing common assessments, making policy revisions, discussing and/or modeling effective pedagogical techniques, or engaging in hands-on technology trainings.  Either way time is made available for all staff to do things on a consistent basis that normally fall by the wayside. To learn more about flipped leadership check out the latest book by Peter DeWitt.

Another way leaders can make time for teachers to engage in professional learning is to look for and then take advantage of opportunities embedded in the school schedule. During my tenure as principal I cut all non-instructional duties in half that each teacher had by contract to create the Professional Growth Period (PGP). This essentially freed up every single teacher at least two periods a week to engage in professional learning experiences that he/she was passionate about. You can read more about the journey to implement this initiative HERE

In 2015 and beyond how will you make time for yourself and others to grow and innovate?
Image credit: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/blissblog/files/2014/02/whatmattersmost.jpg

7 comments:

  1. "Make the time..."

    Eric: Your words are on point. We as Ts need to take initiative, and that seems to be important for any leader in order that we don't become as you say...managers. In fact, being on social media has had me pick up my game in staying on top of educational issues ranging from TEFL to Exceptional Education to Leadership 3.0. And w/ SM, I've been able to do that in smarter ways.

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    1. You are definitely walking the walk Daniel and leading by example! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. Mm. The thing is, you can't actually MAKE time. Like the one image says, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. That's what you get. You can't make more.

    What you have to do is TAKE time. And to do that, you have to take it FROM something else. So if you're saying that professional learning is more important than anything other than working with students, I can't help wondering just what it is that you want teachers to take time from. Grading? Well, research shows that precise, timely feedback is key to students improving their skills. Is it more important than contacting parents? Than filling out reports on students with special needs so that those needs can be adequately met? How about lesson planning, searching for materials or strategies that will help make the content and practice both challenging and engaging?

    The previous post that you link to in which you describe how you took teachers away from some of their non-instructional duties so that they could then use that time for professional learning illustrates this. But that post does not address what duties/responsibilities were de-prioritized from the schedules of the administrators who then supervised the duties formerly handled by the teachers.

    Just some thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Whether one views the issue as making or taking time the key is that time is prioritized in ways that improves professional practice. To my knowledge I never inferred that time be taken away from core responsibilities, but instead to look at other areas of opportunity. I know many teachers that make time each day to connect, engage, and learn through social media without sacrificing all that you state. When there is a will there is a way. In response to your other comment, nothing was de-prioritized from our schedules as administrators. Thanks to technology our office became mobile. For example, I could still type up observation reports during cafeteria duty on my laptop. Other duties were just eliminated (hall duty) as our improved school culture no longer made these duties necessary.

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  3. Eric,

    Thanks for the timely post! Yes, time has been the biggest obstacle to many of the reforms we want to implement, so why not reform the way we use our time? I LOVE the idea of flipping staff meetings and I think that will be one of the first items of business when we return to school. Great thoughts and ideas!

    Jon

    PS-I enjoyed your facilitation of #AussieEd the other week!

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    1. Thanks Jonathon! It all boils down to scrutinizing the time we have in an effort to make better use of it.

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  4. Thank for this reflective post. Time management is a skill that we always need to address. We get so busy with management and we do not make time for leadership.

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