Teaching and Learning - What's in a School Day?

Reader N suggested these topics to discuss:

At my school we have three shared positions and I have a student whose parent is in a shared-position at another school. She agrees as do the teachers at my school that people in shared positions are giving the District time-and-a-half effort for half-time pay.

I have no problem with shared positions but I'm looking ahead at how that affects full-time teachers. Yes, we are working time-and-a-half as well but can we really compete with more rested teachers who often specialize: one teaching mornings (reading...) and one teaching afternoons(science, math)?

From a parent's perspective, I guess that would be the best wouldn't it? Two teachers specializing and both working 150%.

Also, what do parents think about a longer school day? I've had conversations at the primary and intermediate level with younger teachers who say they would probably work less hard if they had more time to actually teach kids. More contact time. As it is, we are rushing at elementary to get everything in that is called curricula these days. It seems to be the more veteran teachers who won't work without more pay. Me, I'm older, but I'd love to slow down a bit. That would solve a lot of problems for me.

I wish teachers would chime in on these kinds of issues as well as parents.

To which Reader Lynn said (and I think it's a valid point):

I'm not interested in a longer school day - unless that extra time is spent on recess, PE, art and music.
My question is about this statement:
It seems to be the more veteran teachers who won't work without more pay.
Good for them.  I suspect ALL teachers are doing more than what they are currently paid for.  Why should they work more time without pay?  


Anonymous said…
I would absolutely want a longer school day. More of everything Lynn said would be great, but even just a little more time to spend on academics would be nice. It all feels so rushed. Do any districts around us have longer school days? (And of course I think teachers should be paid more for a longer school day.)

What I would really want as a parent and community member is a longer school YEAR.

TechyMom said…
I'd like a longer school day, full of the things Lynn suggests, plus a more relaxed pace on academics, more time for lunch (including gardening and cooking), more time for student-chosen enrichment/electives, and time for independent work that is currently done as homework. A lot of that is available after school on site for a fee, but I'd like to see it available to everyone. I would love to have my kid arrive home, on a bus, at 6pm having already done homework, music practice, dance, soccer, robotics etc. so we can relax at home.
TechyMom said…
I'd also like to see optional, free summer programs, offering credit recovery or acceleration, and enrichment classes. I liked what UW did when I was there, where they had 2 short sessions during the summer, with an intensive class taught in 3 or 4 weeks, and some classes that spanned both sessions.
Anonymous said…
A longer school day?! Just how many consecutive hours in a day do you think a child's brain can focus? At what point does making the day longer become a bust, as most brains simply can't focus that long. Whatever happened to get out of school, go home and get out and play?


Anonymous said…
I see TechyMom's vision, and would love to see it implemented somewhere. I've wondered whether the addition of extensive after school activities at some schools effectively provides this longer school day (when I look at the offerings at the after school offerings listed at some schools). How would a longer school day be different (except, potentially, being free, which, of course, would be great)?

Anonymous said…
What would happen in a longer school day? Looking at the current national conversation I'm convinced it would be more hard core academics and test prep in K-8.

No thank you.

If I were convinced it would be more enrichment, I'd be all for it, but I do not think state or local government at this time would fund it. Or if they funded it, it would be for the kids already doing fine in hard core academics. Those "at risk" in the school setting would get MORE hard core academics and test prep while everyone else got art and music and movement. Which would be horrid, not equitable and just the thing to once and for all turn off kids at risk from school.

* K-8 aside....If the state actually funded the full amount of high school hours our kids need, that would be great.

Anonymous said…
I am not a fan of more standardized testing, but I am a fan of more academics. I guess I don't really feel that they get enough.

I'm not suggesting that they should spend a longer day doing more math worksheets. But what about more time for independent reading? For math games? To play sports at school? My kids do all that after school, but I know that is not true for all families. Also, lunch is 15 minutes long for my kid, and recess is too short. Just not enough time.

Anonymous said…
I can't get behind the idea of a longer school day until we get rid of the three tier start time system. Maybe then. I'd also favor first more lunch time, recess, and independent reading time, and after that 45 minutes maybe some more academics, but that doesn't seem as key to me. If they just did less standardized testing during the year and had fewer days off (more instructional days), then I'd think things were fine. But it does feel like they need more academics right now- not because the day is too short but because there are not enough of them in a row so the kids can learn.

Anonymous said…
Ditto what sleeper said.

Some years I count, trying to find how many weeks from Thanksgiving to spring break include a full week of school, no interruptions, but I've given up b/c it's too depressing to see the lack of continuity built into the schedule.

First, I want their days to be more consistent - come up with a way to have an "in service" where the kids go to school, quit the Feb full week break for good, elem. kids should attend the week of THanksgiving, etc.

Get rid of early dismissal. All of them. Why are kids out 2 hours early before a week long break?

For the supposed "in service" early dismissals, maybe have something like a theatre assembly - culture for kids in school - or use that time for the environmental and cultural awareness assemblies they do during the school day now - the assemblies could be richer and deeper with larger blocks of time, including movement and activities, and not cut out time from classes like they do now. The teachers could have their training time with nonteaching staff, parents, and a few subs monitoring the assembly, and the kids would still have school.

If any time is added to the day, it should lunch, art, music, PE, recess, homework math club or free reading at the student's choice, chess, things like that.

More worksheets and lectures about "theme blah blah multiple choice blah blah you're going to lose recess if you don't be quiet blah blah" is NOT what we want.

Signed: improved over more
No longer days said…
I'm at work until 5pm or later as it is. How long would teachers have to stay to prep and have meetings if the school day were longer? 7? 8?

And have you noticed that primary aged children have the attention span of a gnat? How would a longer day benefit them or teachers?

Anonymous said…
I didn't have much of a response to the comment since we can't even get the McCleary ruling enforced.

But I did have a gut reaction to this part of N's posting:

"but can we really compete with more rested teachers"

Certainly, this could be taken as informal language devoid of meaning, but it's not.

Only since "Ed Reform" have teachers been pitted against each other to "compete".

When it infiltrates ordinary language, you know the message has penetrated deeply.

That saddens me as a teacher.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
How does a "shared position" work, and why is it time & a half-work for half-time pay? I just don't kniow enough about the situation to understand - is this one person whod drives between school (like many or the therapists do) or do you mean a class being taught by two techers, both of who work half-time (a morning teacher & an afternoon teacher)? I understand half-time pay if they are working half-time, but if they only teach half the day, don't they only have half as much class prep & grading, etc as a full time teacher? Just wondering. There are a couple of part-time employees at my kid's school, but they don't share jobs; they teach subjects like music that aren't budgeted for a full-time employee.

Mom of 4
Anonymous said…
When we have had them they have either split days (m,t, every other w for one, th, f, every other w for other), which was a disaster a completely lost time for that child(who actuallt regressed academically), or a split day, mornings or afternoons, specialize in subjects(works better than non split academically for obvious reasons, less well for whole child/getting to know your child stuff. I think it's fine for upper elementary but not before).

I'm surprised teachers think the shared contract compares favorably- our first experience was so awful that I'm pretty wary of them now.

Anonymous said…
I don't want a longer school day, but I would love to see more of them. Year-round school with 3 weeks off between semesters would be great!


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