As an educator, I know it is tough to find time to communicate with other educators even located in our own schools, let alone outside our districts. We mainly speak with only the other teachers that have classrooms close to ours, and most of the time it is not pertinent information. It is mostly inconsequential small talk. Once every week or two we might have grade level meetings, but that is only during our twenty minute lunch break as we scarf down our food as fast as possible before the students enter back into the classroom.
There is no set time to meet with other faculty members to discuss information about what seems to work in the classroom. Educators rarely have time during the busy school year to share information with others that could use it. It is just the nature of teaching. The school year starts with a bang and you just try to hold on until the end. However, with technology becoming more and more prevalent in every facet of learning, it’s imperative to share knowledge about how to best use it with the students. Veteran educators might have a few outstanding go-to lessons that incorporate technology that could be shared with educators just entering the profession. Or newer teachers might have a better understanding on how to use computers in the classroom more thoroughly than other teachers that have been teaching the last thirty years. But how do we find the time to share the knowledge with one another?
Early Dismissal Days
Something that is gaining a bit of traction in education is having one early dismissal day a week every week of the school year. The students leave about an hour to an hour and a half earlier than normal on these early dismissal days. This provides the opportunity for teachers at the school to meet and discuss education related topics, including how to use technology more effectively in the classroom.
There are people opposing having frequent early dismissal days throughout the school year. One group is the parents of the children being let out of school early. This forces the parents to change their schedule to ensure someone is at home to watch the kids. Other cynical views on early dismissal days question whether the teachers will actually use this time to learn more about effective teaching techniques. They wonder who will be enforcing educators to learn more creative teaching methods during this hour when the students are not present.
In the past, teachers were able to sign up for specific workshops to attend outside of their normal school district a couple days during the school year. This allowed them to listen to presenters that were considered masters in their certain field. The workshops could have been on Reading strategies, Math concepts, or using Technology in the classroom. Unfortunately, workshops are becoming a less frequent experience for educators.
The workshops are still being presented just as often, but less teachers are being allowed to attend. Each educator that attends the workshop must have their school district pay the fee so that they may attend. School districts seem to be facing such a strain financially that less and less schools are willing to foot the bill. Not only does it cost money for the workshop, but it costs the district even more when having to pay the substitute teacher to cover the class for the day. Because of this, ideas between teachers from other districts are shared less frequently.
Most school districts have approximately four institute days every school year. The students are not present during these days. Teachers attend meetings and conferences during these days at their school. School districts may have a couple of the teachers present information to the rest of the staff during this time, it just depends on what administration has in mind for this day. There is always a lot to cover on institute days with a jam packed schedule. Perhaps some of this time could be spent allowing teachers to attend makeshift workshops in other school districts. This would enable educators to share more knowledge and also learn from others.
Failure to Communicate
While these are all good ideas, the hard truth in education is nothing will probably ever change. The lack of communication between teachers has always been a common theme. If the teacher is not in your hallway at school, then there is not time to share information. More than likely, most teachers learn instead by exploring on their own. They may overhear a lesson that was taught or an assignment that was given, and then modify it to suit their needs better. Teachers that are a bit hesitant to use technology in the classroom will be left to fend for themselves if they don’t ask for help just because there is no time to exchange ideas effectively. Teachers using their own free time for school purposes is an ongoing problem in education that will not be fixed anytime soon.