At our meeting this Thursday, the school board will vote to approve the calendar for the 2013-2014 school year. The proposed calendar - http://commweb.fcps.edu/schoolboardapps/meetings.cfm - looks a lot like this year’s calendar. Not much changes year to year.
One change to the proposed 2013-2014 calendar that I hope the board will support is to give teachers more control over their time during the week before school starts.
The proposed calendar contemplates two “teacher work days” and three “staff development” days for that busy week. Teacher work days are days that teachers control, to be in the classroom planning and setting up for the new school year. Staff development days are days that principals and central office administrators use to provide training and work on school- and county-wide initiatives. Teachers are expected to participate in that training and work on staff development days.
As someone who knows firsthand how much work it takes to get ready for the school year, I think it’s important that we flip that ratio, so that there would be three teacher-directed work days and two staff development days. It may seem like a minor change, but in this year when teachers are feeling overwhelmed by too many new initiatives, even one more day of free planning time sends a much-needed message of respect and a recognition that teachers are trusted as professionals.
Staff development is also important, but like anything else, timing matters. Under pressure and distracted by the myriad tasks required to start the school year, I always found it hard to focus in meetings and trainings the week before school. In addition, there’s a good argument that teachers know best what staff development they need after a few weeks, once they have had a chance to get to know their students and colleagues.
My conversations with principals and central office administrators about this proposed calendar amendment have been very encouraging. There is a recognition across the board that a shift in culture is needed, to show teachers that we respect their professional judgment and we recognize the pressures they are under. One small change will not achieve that, but it is a step in the right direction.
I have felt blessed to teach in a community that values the work teachers do. The school board must always reflect that esteem in our decisions.
Vice Chair and Hunter Mill Representative