2021-08-04 02:35:00

Creating the time to help your school soar

Social impact
By Sam Sapuppo
Schools Advisor Sam is a committed educationalist who believes in the transformative power of community. Through his 30-year involvement in the leadership team of a prominent educational institution in Melbourne, Sam uses his extensive knowledge to help school workflows and processes run smarter.

Time is one of the most precious resources available to schools and teachers but, unfortunately, it’s in increasingly short supply.

Easing the time demands on teachers and principals has been a discussion topic for my entire 40-year history in schools. The willingness and commitment to improving time issues continue unabated. Still, it’s the time available to tackle the problem that is the greatest obstacle schools and teachers must overcome – a catch-22 situation.

Technology has an important role to play in maximising the time we can spend teaching our students. With technology, the catch-22 is that it can actually increase your workload if it’s not the right tech for your school or for you as a teacher. 

Identifying the most suitable technology available – like EdSmart – and embracing a degree of cultural change are fundamental components to reducing teacher workloads and allowing your school to soar.

Boy holding a paper airplane - isolated over a white background
How time has traditionally been divided in schools

Teachers have traditionally divided their time between the following areas:

  • Creating content and lesson planning;

  • Hands-on teaching in the classroom;

  • Correction of schoolwork;

  • Student interviews; 

  • Various administration tasks;

  • Sport and/or co-curricular activities.

While the percentages of time dedicated to these areas across any given teacher’s day might vary between schools, I’m confident there would be widespread agreement that these are the major elements of focus for teachers.

Along with these areas, there are further demands on time because of increasing compliance obligations and increased governance issues. As the availability of resources increases, teachers are also spending time evaluating these resources for their effectiveness and useability.

And all of this is before we even consider issues about child safety and child welfare with which staff now have to be familiar, as well as additional concepts like consent – as an example — being added to the curriculum (and quite rightfully too, in my opinion).

Retro old fashioned photo of children with balloons running on summer meadow
Getting more hours in the day with technology

Preparation is an area of teaching that takes up a considerable amount of teachers’ time. However, technology has given teachers a more significant arsenal of resources to improve the quantity and quality of time they can spend with students. 

Teachers now have Google and access to a range of other online resources to research various study topics and information. While video and audio, for example, have been incorporated into the classroom for decades, the volume (no pun intended) of podcasts, video presentations or multimedia options today is way beyond what was available to teachers in previous eras of learning.

Although this technology facilitates access to a veritable glut of information, teachers need to perform quality control on the information they find, including verifying sources or ensuring the content is appropriate for students, invariably adding to teachers’ preparation time.

This is an excellent example of how the ‘right’ technology can help increase the time available to teachers and principals to focus on the most important part of their job. There’s an increasing number of EdTech products available that administer learning management systems, disseminate information, monitor student performance and provide classroom content designed by specific content teams.

From my time as a teacher, I quite clearly recall preparing an economics lesson. I would spend time cutting out newspaper articles, reading journals, looking for statistics and government initiatives on a range of topics related to the syllabus, and formulate questions for discussion and homework.

Nowadays, I can log in to an EdTech platform and my unit is already prepared for me – every lesson, every piece of homework, and digital exercises and links for the students to enjoy further engagement on the topic. 

Happy boy playing with a paper plane - isolated over white background

How your school can create time

As well as some practical time management skills, I believe there are three practical approaches schools should take to identify solutions that create more time for teachers in the classroom. They are:

  • Cultural positioning;

  • Valuing teaching; 

  • Encouraging professional mistakes.


1. Cultural positioning

Schools, and the people that lead them, need to be culturally positioned to embrace the technology that’s out there. 

There is a vast professional world beyond the school gates that provides a range of resources, expertise, consultancies, products and platforms that have been designed and developed for the express purpose of facilitating more targeted and engaging learning environments. Research is now trying to quantify the impact of technology, multimedia, and increased levels of motivation and engagement in students.

Schools need to recognise that these resources are not competition; they can be powerful allies.

2. Value teaching

School leaders need to ensure that attention is focused on the ‘thing’ that offers the greatest value: the relationship and the work between a teacher and a student in the classroom. 

As research continues to suggest, students are doing hours and hours of homework and it takes enormous amounts of teacher time in terms of preparation and correction. And yet, there is no irrefutable evidence to prove that homework benefits a student in any significant way. 

Place a premium on the time your teachers dedicate to the work performed in the classroom.


3.
Encourage professional mistakes

The almost constant pressure of perfection from the principal and teachers in some institutions is counterproductive. Often, this pressure leads to excessive control and gridlock within a school.

Understanding and using technology to its full capacity often comes from making an error or two along the way — the same way that many of the kids in your classrooms learn by getting things wrong with their first attempt.

Recognise that professional mistakes are grounded in everyone wanting to do things better. And that’s a good thing. As Phillip Heath, Principal at Barker College in Sydney admits, failure is something to be embraced.

Follow the leaders Flock of Canadian geese flying in an imperfect V formation, isolated on whiteIn conclusion

For many reasons, the amount of time teachers can dedicate to face-to-face teaching is declining. On contrast, more and more time is being allocated to lesson preparation and the administrative side of their day-to-day roles (take the Grattan Institute survey).

The challenge involves finding ways to increase the time teachers spend delivering the syllabus to students in more engaging and effective ways, without compromising the all-important preparation and administrative obligations. 

Technology, implemented with the right cultural approach, has the capacity to give teachers more quality classroom time with their students and help your school soar.

EdSmart could be the platform your school needs to soar

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