Teachers’ time is one of a school’s most valuable and scarce resources, yet it’s often wasted because of poor leadership and management. Repeated demands for paperwork that has no apparent purpose, disruptions caused by tardy students or fights in the corridors, and delays due to broken equipment, missing textbooks, or a locked bathroom can zap teachers’ spirit and sidetrack their plans.
The time crunch is nothing out of the ordinary for teachers, but an in-depth new study shows how much an enterprising and responsive school leader can help — creating an environment where teachers use their time well, succeed with their students, and stay in the profession.
In her latest book, Where Teachers Thrive, Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Susan Moore Johnson describes 14 schools studied between 2008 and 2015. These schools required an in-school workday for teachers ranging from 6.5 to 9.25 hours. Teachers typically had designated blocks for instruction; planning and preparation; supervisory tasks (such as monitoring bus arrivals or lunch in the cafeteria); as well as after-school staff meetings and professional development. No matter how long their workday was, most teachers said they did not have enough time to complete “essential tasks.” Responsibilities like grading, reading, lesson planning, and calling parents often fell into out-of-school hours, leading many teachers to question whether they could teach at the level of quality they aspired to or would stay long in the profession.