The Gift of Time
Why Teachers Need Time to Meet and Talk
When I mentored teaching interns, my first in 2011, the rewards were intrinsic: I believed it would be a professional challenge, mentoring might help me hone my instruction, and I understood that teachers new to the profession are an investment. I did not agree to mentor interns because I thought I'd get paid, although some programs do pay cooperating teachers. After mentoring my first teaching intern, who now teaches at Thetford Elementary School, I received a neat white envelope with an Amazon gift card for $30 inside. I was surprised and touched by the gesture, and I bought some books.
I received this gift again in 2012 after mentoring my second intern. That evening I browsed Amazon for a few minutes and realized they sold wine online. A spendy bottle or two of red for mentoring an intern for a semester? Why not?
I discovered Amazon could not ship wine to Vermont. I bought some more books.
In 2013, however, mentor teachers were offered one graduate credit for mentoring an intern and could earn two more by participating in an inquiry into teaching practice. The purpose of the inquiry was to explore a problem of practice within my classroom. With the support and input from other experienced teachers, I formulated a question about an instructional problem, learned more about the issue, made a change in my practice, collected evidence, and presented my findings. Not only did I make a positive change in my classroom, but I learned a little more about challenges other teachers faced.
I wasn't the only one in the group to appreciate the time to talk about teaching. A participating science teacher said that she has difficulty thinking at school, and this time really helped.
It’s hard to think in school? While this seems paradoxical, I knew exactly what she meant.
The time to meet and talk with other professionals is an invaluable gift. And time to meet and talk is not just a luxury-- it's critical for school change.
There are two overarching conditions which support school-based professional community (a critical component of school improvement): structural conditions, and social and human resources. Structural conditions include time to meet and talk. When I work with teachers and educational leaders, they often lament the paucity of time to meet with colleagues, and the lack of time to reflect upon real issues. Time is a scarce resource.
My own experience illustrates that time to think about real instructional challenges and talk to other teachers about these challenges helps make teachers better, and in turn, helps make schools better.
Teachers’ days are frenetic, and there isn’t much time to sit down with colleagues and talk about the big or small changes we all want to make in our practice. To be given this time is a real gift.
Now that’s better than an Amazon gift card any day.