Making Time vs Finding Time from A Principal's Reflections by Eric Sheninger

One of the most utilized excuses in education when it comes to change is lack of time. At one point or another, we have all used the time excuse when it comes to our professional work.  With all of the mandates and directives that are thrown our way, time becomes a relatively easy scapegoat when it comes to skirting the issue of change. Whether it be in the form of endless piles of paperwork, never ending observations, meetings with parents, attending events, developing a master schedule, or constructing a school budget – there never seemed like enough time in my day to even get those responsibilities done. It is never easy in the role of a teacher either. Lesson planning, grading, meeting with students before/after school, running clubs, and coaching all take up a great deal of their time as well.  Time is the number one enemy of needed change and improvement in my opinion.

Let’s face the perceived fact that there will never be enough time in any of our days to get everything done.  Or is there? Regardless of your respective role in education, time will always be your enemy if you look at it with a fixed as opposed to a growth mindset. This is where you need to focus less on finding time and more on making time to complete necessary tasks that are not only required, but also ones that will allow you to grow, innovate, and develop more of a passion for your work. Before getting to this point you must look at how you currently utilize the time you have. In my case I was more of a manager as opposed to a leader. In response I began to either delegate the managerial aspects of my position as a principal to my assistants or I just got rid of obligatory routines shrouded in monotony such as certain meetings.  For teachers it is important to look at how time is spent during areas of opportunity during the day (i.e. prep periods, lunch) to see where a growth mindset can be employed.  

No matter how you slice it the time game will always be challenging, but there is hope. First and foremost, make the time to learn, grown, and get better as opposed to finding the time.  There is nothing more important to an educator, outside of working with kids, than professional learning. Carve out some time each day if possible. Through social media aPersonal Learning Network (PLN) provides a great antidote to the age-old time excuse. You can now learn anywhere, with anyone, at anytime you want for free.  While online consider making some time to learn and then apply a new skill while earning a digital badge to acknowledge your informal learning.  As great as a PLN is to professional growth, make the time to connect face to face with colleagues at conferences and workshops. Hands-on learning and networking experiences are invaluable to any educator who aspires to and models life-long learning.

If you are an educational leader one of your responsibilities is to take the time excuse away from your staff.  Consider flipping your faculty meetings.  This concept is based on the popular flipped classroom model. When flipping a faculty meeting teachers are given informational items to read and view in advance. This results in a shift from a leader-driven meeting to one where leadership is distributed. Instead of reviewing items off an agenda, time is spent more creatively as teachers take on a more active, creative role. For example, a short video outlining the agenda items can be created and viewed by teachers beforehand. Or articles and data sets can be distributed prior to the meeting for staff to review.  Actual meeting time can then be dedicated to analyzing data, developing common assessments, making policy revisions, discussing and/or modeling effective pedagogical techniques, or engaging in hands-on technology trainings.  Either way time is made available for all staff to do things on a consistent basis that normally fall by the wayside. To learn more about flipped leadership check out the latest book by Peter DeWitt.

Another way leaders can make time for teachers to engage in professional learning is to look for and then take advantage of opportunities embedded in the school schedule. During my tenure as principal I cut all non-instructional duties in half that each teacher had by contract to create the Professional Growth Period (PGP). This essentially freed up every single teacher at least two periods a week to engage in professional learning experiences that he/she was passionate about. You can read more about the journey to implement this initiative HERE

In 2015 and beyond how will you make time for yourself and others to grow and innovate?

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