New Schedule in NYC Schools Makes Time for Teaching the Teachers

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 - 04:00 AM

April McConnell and her husband Roddy, who helps her arrange her second grade classroom each year at P.S. 130 (Beth Fertig/WNYC)

When the city schools open on Thursday, students at hundreds of schools will be starting a little earlier or later so that teachers can have more time to meet with parents, and with each other. The change is part of the new teachers contract, which rearranges the 150 minutes teachers used to spend helping small groups of students before or after school.

P.S. 130 used to have morning sessions it called the Muffin Club for students who needed an extra boost. Second grade teacher April McConnell, who's worked at the school for 22 years, said she thought it was time well spent.

"I found that to be very effective," she said, adding that it's tough to find time during the day to meet with every child who wanted help.

This is why McConnell sounded skeptical about the change in schedule. Although she said it's "fabulous" that the city is giving teachers more time to contact parents "it's also taking away from the children."

Principal Renny Fong (center, in red) with teachers preparing for the start of school at P.S. 130 (Beth Fertig/WNYC)

Her principal, Renny Fong, agreed it's a trade-off. But he said it's necessary because teachers are often more isolated than other professionals. They spend a tremendous amount of time in the classroom or preparing their lessons, he said, without enough time to improve their craft.

"One of the most effective things is when teachers get together and learn together," he explained. "And I feel sometimes we’re missing that."

Fong said he'll create a committee to survey the staff on what they want to learn during the professional development sessions; he expects his teachers will spend time mastering the state's Common Core standards, and sharing examples of student work.

Fifth-grade teacher Rachel Carr, a 20-year veteran, said she will also miss the morning sessions with students but she hopes the training could help her do a better job during the regular school day.

"I'd like to have more time spent looking at samples from what's considered to be on grade level, below, above so that we’re on the same page." she said.

Carr's colleague across the hall, Betty Tom, has been teaching for two years. She’s particularly excited about having time to work with families. 

"Often times last year one of my biggest struggles was reaching out to parents and reserving time for them to come in and talk to them," she said. "It’s going to be really helpful and I hope that it will work."

If it does work, those parents will be more on top of their students’ issues, and kids who used to get extra help in the mornings will receive better instruction throughout the day. But if it doesn’t work, both teachers and parents might see the change in schedule as a waste of time.

You can see the new school schedules at the Department of Education's link.


Comments [6]

R Benadon from NYC

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Sep. 04 2014 07:27 AM
Scott from Plainview

Teachers are professionals, like doctors, lawyers and accountants. We all have licenses, and must have mandatory continuing education. Teachers should be treated like professionals. Having a strict union contract that treats teachers like plumbers is wrong. You can stop for the day, and pick up where you left off with a plumbing job (most of the time), but you can't do that with children. If they need more prep time, let them do it after school, at home, or at other times.

Sep. 03 2014 02:18 PM
Justin from Brooklyn

I can't help but wonder how this time will be spent at "failing" schools. Likely more time with professional development that has nothing to do with the needs of such schools, foisted upon them by incompetent administrators who create a negative bully culture.

I am sure it will do well in schools that already have a successful culture built in.

Sep. 03 2014 12:08 PM
Leonie Haimson from NYC

Less time for small group instruction is particularly damaging, given we have the largest class sizes in 15 years in grades K-3 and UFT class size limits have not changed in 40 years. No matter how well-trained our teachers, it will be difficult if not impossible for them to achieve the Chancellor's goals of all 2nd graders reading on "grade level" with class sizes of 25, 30 or more in these grades.

Sep. 03 2014 10:01 AM
David Bloomfield from Brooklyn College

The new contract should have preserved schools' option to use extra time for instruction, along with now-required parent outreach and professional development. Students' and teachers' differing needs should have recognized. In addition, dramatically increased translation services are a must if additional parent conference hours are to be effective.

Sep. 03 2014 08:54 AM
Bridget from Nyack, NY

I was a teacher in the city not too long ago, I find that this professional development can be a great help. However, it also steals actual "prep" time from teachers and they are therefore unable to implement that which is discussed in training.

Sep. 03 2014 08:12 AM

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