Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Most Important Period of My Week

   What's the most important period of my week?

Monday morning, first period.  
     Every Monday morning, beginning at about 9:20 and ending around 10:00, Rich and I sit down at his back table.  There's no formal agenda.  Just two teachers talking, and we cover the waterfront.  For example, during the the past several Mondays we:

  • Looked over the next unit assessment and made some decisions about what concepts to give priority focus;
  • Checked the calendar and the curriculum guide to make sure we were on schedule, and determined how to arrange and organize the week's lessons;
  • Previewed a fraction project we had found on the Georgia Frameworks and started brainstorming how it might be adapted for the class;
  • Discussed the most effective way to provide meaningful feedback for an open response problem we had given the kids to work on the previous week;
  • Analyzed the work of some at-risk students and began re-formulating intervention plans;
  • Debated what to assign for homework;
  • Reorganized the room to accommodate the new 4 ft. by 8 ft. whiteboard we had secured to mount on his back wall;
  • Commiserated on the woeful seasons our two favorite football teams were suffering through, the Redskins (him) and the Giants (me).
We're very busy, and there's lots to accomplish.
     It may seem counter-intuitive to claim that the most important period of my week is spent sitting at a table with a teacher and not standing up in front of a class.  But everything good that happens during the time we spend with our fifth grade class has its origin in our Monday morning meeting.
     I wish I could do this with every teacher in my building, but there are many obstacles to making this wish a reality.  Teachers are very possessive of their "prep periods", and for good reason.  They don't have many of them, and it's the one time during the day where they can catch their breath: check homework assignments, clean up from lessons just completed and set up for lessons that will follow, touch base with grade-level colleagues, meet with administrators or school support staff, mark classwork, contact parents, fix bulletin boards, catch up on clerical work, and the myriad of other tasks, both important and mundane, that  must be done but cannot be done while the kids are in the room.  And of course there's the issue of finding a time in my schedule that might coordinate with a time in theirs.  So we talk wherever and whenever we can.  Before school (if you happen to come in early), after school (if you happen to stay late), in the hallway while you're walking your class to gym or back from music, in the copy room, by the laminator, in the all-purpose room during morning line-up, in the parking lot.  Small moments, and, yes, they're helpful, but they feel rushed and incomplete.  Not like my Monday morning meeting with Rich.
     Clearly this is a problem, and it's illustrated in a graphic I saw on my twitter feed this past October:

     I found these statistics astonishing.  It's clear we need more time during the day to engage in meaningful collaboration with our colleagues.  If we use it wisely, it will make the time we spend in class more meaningful to our students.
     What's the most important period of my week?  Monday morning, first period.
     What's the most important period of  your week?

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