CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND SCSBC’S RESPONSE: Find the lastest updates here for students, faculty and staff.

Subscribe to the newsletter

    Do You Have Time?

    If you were to ask a teacher what they need most, they would likely respond with, “I require more time” or “Please grant us more time.” Although time is a finite resource, our perspective on it greatly influences how we use this crucial asset.

    Could it be that institutional inertia has led your school to let the weekly schedule or the September-to-June school year dictate how you regard time? What if leadership teams started treating time as a resource rather than a constraint?

    In British Columbia, schools are mandated to adhere to the provincial curriculum, which specifies a set number of instructional hours per year. Schools are encouraged to craft learning experiences that align the provincial curriculum with the local context and the needs of the learners. Is it conceivable that we continue to allow outdated time restrictions to shape our schedules even after the restrictions have evolved?

    Effective learning is comprehensive, engaging more than just the learner’s intellect. Quality learning doesn’t have a fixed endpoint determined by the clock; reflection and ideation persist well beyond scheduled work hours. Schools that adhere rigidly to a time-based mindset tend to overbook time slots, creating the illusion of efficient learning. Overly regimented timetables, originally intended as guides for teachers, have now become constraints hindering teachers and disrupting the learning process.

    Taking a moment as a leadership team to contemplate time encourages essential conversations about how time is allocated. For learners in preschool through grade 9, local communities can design schedules that suit students’ needs because provincial time constraints are limited. These schedules are tailored to promote holistic learning, affording teachers the flexibility to adjust classroom schedules to cater to their students. Subject areas serve as guides rather than rigid structures for timetables. Literacy and numeracy instruction gain context by practicing skills and competencies across all learning opportunities, irrespective of subject area. Learning design prioritizes multidisciplinary approaches. Projects, community service, and other learning initiatives prompt students to apply direct instruction in new ways, demonstrating mastery through the ability to transfer skills and understanding. Educators monitor students’ competency development across various disciplines, without being overly bound by the taxonomy initially designed for tracking content acquisition.

    In contrast, for grades 10-12, known as the Graduate Learning Years in BC, many schools persist in using time much the same way as their predecessors did two decades ago. Some courageous schools attempt to implement new structures that align with our current understanding of learning – that it thrives when it’s engaging over an extended period, has real-world applications, and serves a purpose greater than personal achievement. These schools endeavour to create schedules that support deeper learning, but often, the effectiveness of these new structures diminishes over time due to resistance against the inertia of “the way things have always been done.” These innovative structures do not align with how teachers were taught when they were students, which remains a strong determinant of their teaching methods. Amid the hustle and bustle of the weekly schedule, many teachers revert to their own educational experiences, rather than the training they received. The teachers who can overcome this barrier in the Graduate Learning Years should be enlisted to enhance learning design across the entire system.

    Adjusting our timetable away from a small block, subject-focused paradigm is a formidable task. It conveys to learners that the work being done is significant enough that schedules should adapt to accommodate it, instead of the other way around. Suddenly, learning takes on a new level of importance, transcending mere means to an end. Learners become engrossed in the process of learning, and it is the professional educator’s responsibility to monitor their progress, aligning it with the curricular requirements for a specific grade level. Although a timetable structured by subject areas may be more convenient for teachers and the system, it does not represent a time usage that prioritizes learning. Traditional timetables continue to reinforce a content-focused paradigm rather than one centred on building competencies.

    We must refrain from piling on new initiatives without relieving educators from tasks that no longer contribute to overall learning goals. Have you reviewed your routines and considered whether there are any tasks that deprive students of valuable learning opportunities? Who is responsible for decorating the classroom? Who takes attendance in the morning? Who organizes the classroom library or sets up learning centres during breaks? Who ensures that each lab station is prepared for the upcoming class? There are numerous daily tasks that, if delegated to students, would not only ease teachers’ workloads but also empower students to develop life skills that go beyond the curriculum, encompassing a holistic view of human development.

    Darren Spyksma
    SCSBC Associate Executive Director