In many businesses, “efficiency” is a top goal. In work with students, a focus on efficiency may sound cold—but take a look at all the work I must do before I can even begin instruction in my classroom:
Take attendance; grade papers; give meaningful feedback on assignments; collect assignments; implement educational technology; handle discipline concerns; provide remediation for struggling students.
Even as a 24-year teacher with the experience and ability to intuit the specific needs of a class, I find it difficult to effectively execute all these tasks efficiently enough to create more instructional time.
And gaining any time we can for instruction is crucial at any school, but especially at ones like mine—where nearly all students come from economically challenged homes.
I think we’ve found a way. Beginning in 2016, I became an Opportunity Culture expanded-impact teacher (EIT), in which I teach more students than usual—40 per class instead of 25. EITs are selected for their prior record of success with student learning and are paid more (within regular school budgets); it’s an especially effective model for schools that are hard to staff.
Nonetheless, any time you add more students to any teacher’s roster can be daunting. At Banneker High, we address that by combining EITs with aspiring teachers. These are full-time teachers in their first or second year in the classroom, selected by the administrative team as a promising new teacher to work alongside the EIT. Now, with two people in the room, all of the menial daily tasks get shared by the EIT and aspiring teacher—meaning we can move more quickly into instruction, with the aspiring teacher learning on the job what it takes to be a great teacher.
In the class block I teach each day with my aspiring teacher, we decided to split the “housekeeping duties.” each week. During our planning time, we would decide, for example, who would take roll, while the other collected homework. Then, if we timed it right, I could begin the “bell ringer” assignment or opening lesson as he distributed graded assignments and quietly gave individual feedback on them. What once might have taken 15 or 20 minutes now took five or six—allowing us to create more quality instructional time.