What if we hired and placed teachers completely differently?
I have been thinking about this issue for a long time. The assigning of one person to one classroom, in isolation from all other teachers, has always seemed to me to be a profound error. It hampers ongoing professional development, it breeds egocentrism, and makes it far too hard to get appropriate consistency across teachers concerning instructional quality, assessment, and grading.
So, what if we hired 4 teachers for 3 classrooms? That would have enormous benefit:
- A teacher could always be free to help another teacher manage a project, provide feedback to a colleague, work with kids in a more personalized coaching way.
- A teacher could always be free to do ‘learning walks’ - to visit many other classes to find good practices that could be brought back to the other team members.
- Someone could always be free to attend planning meetings or scoring of student work sessions made up of representatives from each team
- Hiring could be more differentiated. One team member could be strong in a needed subject (e.g. science at the elementary level or literacy at the HS level) that is a typical weak spot in individual teachers. Or a team member with design skills could be the chief planner for the team. Or one teacher could be great at student-led inquiry work while another was a top-rate lecturer or coach, so they could hand off the teaching when a different style was used.
- Someone would always be free to visit other schools or do off-site professional development, with no loss of learning time for kids.
- 1 member of the team could watch time-intensive student presentations while the other teachers taught.
- Junior teachers could be mentored on a regular basis by senior team members.
- The team leader would be responsible for ensuring that best practices and consistency in assessment were taking place in all classes.
- There would be only occasional need to find and pay subs., thus ensuring that maximal learning time was rarely compromised; and offsetting the cost of the 4-to-3 system.
Anyone who has co-taught knows the power of it (I have done it a few times, both as a classroom teacher and in working with Jay and my colleagues in UbD training.) You learn from one another, you gain some perspective, and you learn to truly work as a team. (Far too many educators do not know how to work efficiently and effectively as a team to accomplish shared goals because they have so little practice in it.)
Here’s part two of the idea, borrowed from Alverno College. Each MS and HS teacher is hired to fulfill two roles: a subject area slot and a core competency slot. For example, Alverno requires all students to meet mastery learning requirements in 8 areas (e.g. Communication, Creative Thinking.) So a Professor has two distinct roles: Professor in a subject (e.g. Philosophy) and member of a Competency Committee (e.g. Communication). Thus, the Competency Committees are inherently cross-disciplinary in membership, where all members are in charge of designing lesson ideas and assessments for their Competency area.
Imagine, therefore, committees in K-12 schools designed to handle the key phrases of the Mission – critical thinking, problem-solving, global citizenship, etc. in which a teacher serves on one of the Mission-focused Committees. Now, the secondary school is far less fragmented and staff are far less isolated in their own subject area and discourse.
Of course, this can only work under a variety of conditions (e.g. a large enough staff with multiple grade-level or subject classes, start-up funding to offset initially increased costs, etc.), but I trust that it gives readers some ideas to play with in their own setting.
Readers, do you know of or have you been involved in more creative uses of staff than are typically found in schools?