Friday, January 28, 2011

Time on Task - How Much is Enough?

Most of my career I've taught at the secondary level - middle and high school. One of the challenges in this environment is making sure your students are spending most of their "time on task" - in other words, they should be learning, not doing other things. As a teacher, I am mindful of that bell schedule and know that I only have approximately 50 minutes to foster learning. But as I calculated it out, I found that I really don't have the luxury of 50 minutes - it's more like 45, if I'm lucky.

The bell rings, classes change, students saunter in and find their seats, visit for a moment with their friends until the bell rings again signaling the start of the period. Ideally, instruction should start at that very moment.

It doesn't.

Someone is always late.
We may get interrupted by an announcement on the school PA system.
I may have to hand out some flyer or school communication for students to take home.
I may have to first collect homework, take attendance, and deal with those who are not prepared because they came without pencil, paper, their book or other supplies.

It is now 6 minutes into the class period.

On the other end of the period, I need to wrap up the lesson, give any last minute announcements, reminders about homework, and collect any work they've produced during that time.

2 more minutes gone.

That leaves me, as long as there are no interruptions like student behavior issues, another announcement from the office, a fire drill, or a delivery from the office, guidance counselor or other administrator calling one of my students out of class, about 42 minutes to teach and for students to learn. much do you think we get done? Let's break it down.

42 minutes per day per class period
That's 210 minutes per school week (5 days)
That's 7560 minutes per school year (180 days)
That's 126 hours per school year

That's 5.25 days per school year!!!

That's it.

That's all the time I have with your child to teach an entire grade level worth of content and hope they learn it.

I don't think there's enough time on task for any of us.

How much is enough? All I know is that 5.25 days with your child is not near enough. And this is assuming each child is fully engaged and active in their learning and not distracted or otherwise disinterested and off task sneaking a text on their phones.

Okay, let's round it down to 5 days.

I'm pretty sure we need more time than that.