One of my goals for this last school year was looking at how to be flexible around the use of time, to enable teachers to be able to be innovative, and to take on the work that truly allows students to go deep and become engaged in their learning. Often, our work is so focused on the day today trivialities, so how do we give teachers the time to be able to focus on the “Important” work, rather than the “paper” work?
One of the best strategies we used was the idea of opening up time so that teachers could collaborate and could do the work that they always said “I wish I could…” so this school year this is exactly what we attempted to do.
We decided that on every second Wednesday, when we have early dismissal, teachers would be given time to undertake work that was purposeful, engaging, collaborative, and beyond merely planning for next week. It was not to be used for things like writing up field trip forms, day-to-day planning, working on report cards, cleaning off your desk, or other mundane paperwork or planning tasks. The time was directed to be for all those wonderful things that you always wished you had time to undertake…
We called this time Creating Innovative Learning Opportunities time, or CILO time. Using this blog, teachers posted up a comment about what they or their grade team or a collaborative group were working on so that others would be able to share ideas or get ideas or collaborate in ways that built the work up.
After over half a year of doing CILO times, teachers were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing, and the outcomes definitely support that. They shared with me that they felt that they were being utilized as professionals, that it allowed them to take up work that they were passionate about, and that it was leading to excellent professional development and collaboration among the staff.
From my own experiences, as a principal, we all know that it is so easy to get caught up in the paperwork. I forced myself to work in the same way as our wonderful staff, and made sure that I was also working on those things that I have always wanted to do, but never have the time. This blog is an example of that. I have also used the time for re-examining how we schedule time, re-looking at how we provide feedback and professional support to teachers, as well as delving in and working on both educational technology and communication strategies for the school. These outcomes have all had a very positive effect on the school, but I had to force myself to take the time…
What was the best outcome of all of this work around CILO time? It is the fact that a number of the teachers are now starting to enable our students to work in this way as well. Although we are still in early days around allowing students some flexible time, teachers have reported that student engagement and passion has gone through the roof during times where autonomy and purposeful work was allowed for the students. Knowing that, I am very excited about the possibilities for next year that will come as students become more familiar and more self-involved in their learning.
Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive,” described the three elements of true motivation, which are purpose, autonomy, and mastery. The best thing about utilizing our time in this way is that it is enabling teachers to increase their mastery of our professional work and improve student learning, provide autonomy for some amazing educators, and to allows them to work with purpose and passion.
Please take a look at some of the CILO blog postings from this year. Take a close look at the comments, and notice the passion that comes shining through from most of the comments from our staff. You may not be able to see the work in person, but you can definitely feel the effect it has had on teachers pursuing innovative and collaborative work in designing learning for students at Keeler School.
For further resources, check out Larry Ferlazzo’s blog on The Best Resources For Applying “Fed Ex Days” To Schools: