Maximizing instructional minutes has been one of my passions over the course of my teaching career. After years trying to find ways to cut corners and give my kids the most out of every school day, I’ve arrived at a place of moderation.
Redeem the Time
On the one hand, I still don’t want to waste time during the school day. I have five hours of contact time with my students, 25 hours each week. If I waste that time, my students will not get a good education and will be unprepared for school the following year. Most of my class performs below grade level, particularly in language arts. How can I get them up to grade level? This takes time.
So in my efforts to use our five hours efficiently, I do things like a two-minute start and “Stand When You’re Ready.” These types of techniques speed up the pacing of the class without having negative impacts on student achievement.
Taking our Time
On the other hand, I don’t want my students to feel like everything we do is rushed. I don’t want to stress my kids out because stressed out students don’t learn as well…and an overload of stress is harmful to one’s well-being.
In my efforts to take our time, I do things like brain breaks, think time, opportunities for students to just talk about their thinking (I talk about using pair share for ‘release’ in The 5-Minute MishMash, episode 11), and occasional jokes to lessen the stress.
Here’s my suggestion: Have a sit-down with a colleague. Talk about how you use your instructional minutes. Analyze yourself and figure out where you land on the “instructional minutes” continuum. Are you using up a lot of time on things that just don’t matter? Are there ways you could cut some corners without raising your students’ stress levels? Or perhaps you’re too much of a time-on-task Nazi. Maybe you need to chill out a bit and let your kids (and yourself) be human on occasion. Be honest, and then be patient with yourself. Change takes time. You’re not going to bring things into a perfect balance overnight…and frankly, that perfect balance doesn’t really exist.
I value your comments.