“Time is not something you have…”

This is a guest post from Blair Brown, NCTL's Director of Communications & External Affairs.

“It is something you make,” so said Geoff Rose, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dever-McCormack School in Boston, at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching & Learning, last Friday.  Geoff was part of a panel discussion, entitled “Teachers as Leaders in Expanded-Time Schools”, which was moderated by Jennifer Davis, NCTL’s President.

Geoff’s statement on time – a phrase he says his father used to say –emphasized that time is only a resource – it can be spent wisely or poorly. At his school, a K-8 turnaround school, Geoff stressed they have learned that lesson all too well. The first year of the turnaround was not easy. Both teachers and students had to adjust to a longer schedule (an additional hour for all students) and new transitions. But the time gained with the new schedule has been worth it – students are receiving more time for both academic instruction and enrichments, and teachers have more time for collaboration.

Joining Geoff on the panel was Athena Fliakos, Director of Teacher Talent and Development at Generation Schools. Athena gave an overview of Brooklyn Generation School’s (BGS) model – one that expands the school year for students, while allowing teachers to work 180 days. Perhaps most impressively, BGS is able to focus an incredible amount of attention during that time to teacher collaboration and professional development while also keeping a focus on preparing students for success in college and career. While that has become a popular refrain in education these days, BGS really walks the walk. With their expanded school year, they are able to provide ‘intensives’ – classes or apprenticeships for their students to go deep in a subject and allow the students to think about ‘what’s next’ – possible college majors, internships, or vocational training.

Rounding out the panel was Nick VanDerwerken from KIPP Academy Lynn, a middle school campus in Lynn, Massachusetts. An expanded school schedule is a cornerstone piece of KIPP’s model, as Nick explained, from their summer program when entering students report two weeks early to their longer days. Their days include more instructional time and time for enrichment activities, such as music, arts and knitting. 

A few common threads emerged from the discussion among these teacher leaders, and from the questions that followed from the audience. One common theme I picked up was around empowering teachers – in each of the schools, the expanded school schedule is not simply about giving teachers more time for planning. When a school is truly on the right track, teachers are motivated and inspired as leaders in their school.

And that leads into a second (and for this blog – final) theme: school culture.  Maintaining a school culture of high expectation for success is a key priority for each of these schools. At Dever-McCormack, the school motto is “Work hard. Work together. Panther pride.” At KIPP Lynn, it’s “Work Hard. Be Nice.” At BGS, the motto is “Work Hard. Dream Big. Care More.”

And what would be better than a world where we all “work hard, work together, be nice, dream big and care more”?