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The Problem of Time

Kimberly Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, is a first-year English teacher at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Kimberly and and her mentor, Laurie Stenehjem, share their journal entries with Education World readers in alternating weeks.



The weeks have flown by since holiday break! I'm beginning to come up with all sorts of great ideas for activities and lesson plans to implement in my classroom, but I'm afraid there's not enough time left in the school year to accomplish all my goals.

This semester, I'm taking an "action research" course, in which I'm expected to focus on an element of my teaching that needs improvement or change. The process involves reading literature about the topic and then implementing new strategies in my classroom. I love gathering the ideas and adapting them for use in my classroom; it helps me feel more like a professional who is growing and learning and taking responsibility for developing her skills. I look forward to next year when I'll have time to do more action research.

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I also enjoy collaborating with other teachers. Beginning next month, our school's technology expert is going to bring iBook computers into my classroom so students can create commercials -- in the form of iMovies -- selling punctuation marks as their products.

In addition, Craig -- another seventh-grade teacher -- and I just put together a three-day project in which our students will write short pieces about living in this part of the country (North Dakota). Students whose pieces are selected will be asked to record them for National Public Radio. As Craig and I talk, we think of so many activities we could work together to create -- if only we had the time.

The issue of time is so frustrating! Most teachers have very little preparation time in the course of a day; whatever time they do have is spent grading papers, straightening classrooms, planning lessons -- and taking a bathroom break. Not much time is left for collaboration or reflection. Time is available after school, of course, but many teachers already have obligations that make planning time outside school hours difficult to schedule.

I suppose the problem of time has no easy solution. We already have too few hours to spend with our students; taking more time out of the school day for teacher collaboration and action research is impossible.

I look at the teachers in our building who are best at collaborating and at experimenting with new ideas. Those teachers arrive at school very early and leave very late. They're efficient and skilled at effectively using whatever precious free time they do have. They sacrifice personal time in the interest of improving their teaching skills.

Perhaps the best teachers are those who are most willing to give up their personal time for the sake of their students' education. I've heard before that teaching is not a way to make a living; it is a way of living. How true!


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Article by Kimberly Johnson
Education World®
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2/28/2002