How to Configure Next Year’s Schedule

After a few conversations with school leaders across East Asia, I learned that the

#1 thing keeping them up at night is configuring next year’s master schedule.

It makes sense.

How do you configure a master schedule with teachers stuck across the world, new laws around CoVid 19, uncertainty around enrollment, social distancing mandatory in schools, and some families opting not to return?

While we can create a thousand sample scenarios of what the Fall may look like for us as leaders, the truth is, nobody knows. Rather than focus on configuring sample schedules, it’s more useful and important to configure how our master schedule fits our hoped learning outcomes.

Here are five things to think about when configuring next year’s schedule.

Tip #1: Shrink the size of your Teams

Do you have teachers spread across multiple grade levels, departments and subjects? That’s not going to work next year. Rather than spread teachers thin, give them small and focused, interdisciplinary teams. If one member of the team is stuck abroad, another can can pick up the slack. Teams can also plan instruction around deeper learning experiences. Whether it’s on or off campus 2 days a week or 3 next year, it doesn’t matter, there will be less moving parts to arrange.

This video from High Tech High demonstrates the power of interdisciplinary teaming on student learning.

Questions to ponder:

What teaming structures do you currently use for teachers? How might you break up larger teams or form new, smaller teams to deepen learning for students?

Tip #2: Stop shuffling kids from class to class

While some of us teachers lamented going back to school and having to travel from class to class, this is what students experience on a daily basis. Keeping students in one place at school makes scheduling a lot easier. With students remaining in the same class, teachers will only have to take roll once per day, and the class can form the community necessary to make deeper learning possible.

Questions to ponder:

How might you empower and involve students in co-designing their learning spaces?

Tip #3: Lengthen Class Time

Change short classes to longer blocks of time. In this way, the interdisciplinary teams formed in tip #1 can develop a few deep and rich learning experiences, rather than one- off lessons. Teachers can move to the facilitator role to support more kids and utilize the blended learning time at home for the content heavy lessons. Students will also have more time to connect in class and form a community.

Here is an article by ACSD on the benefits of longer blocks of time on student learning.

Questions to ponder:

Which part of your curriculum is essential? What subjects can be easily combined? What teaming structures will be allow for deeper learning experiences?

Tip #4: Lighten the teaching load

Your teachers are going to burn out if replicating the model we used during CoVid 19 this year. Planning 5 to 6 lessons or having 5 to 6 preps a day is not sustainable. If you lengthen class time and combine subjects, while it will involve some re-structuring at first, rather than planning 5 to 6 lessons, teachers will only need to develop 1-2 more thoughtful and connected units of study.

Here is an article by the Asian Society on how teachers combined art, dance, music, and the humanities to re-invigorate language teaching.

Questions to Ponder:

How might you use both synchronous and asynchronous learning to create richer learning experiences? What part of your curriculum can be connected for deeper units of study?

Tip #5: Add an Advisory/ Homeroom to your Schedule

Students are now more self- directed than ever before. They know how to learn on their own, manage schedules, and plan out learning for the day. Provide continual support for them to do so by allocating 30 minutes a day for homeroom. This will make blended learning possible; lighten your teacher’s direct teaching duties; and help students form the social and emotional bonds necessary to maintain their well- being.

Here is an article by ‘Getting Smart’ on the benefits of advisory to learners and how to add it it into the master schedule.

Questions to Ponder:

What time do I put into the schedule to allow for student’s social and emotional growth? How might adding in regular time for advisory increase student’s independence and ability to manage their own schedules?

THE ‘WILD CARD’

There’s a wild card that makes everything described above possible.

Project-Based Learning.

By transitioning units of study to being project- based, you will simplify your master schedule, and create better learning outcomes regardless of what next year looks like.

Rather than trying to arrange a thousand moving parts, you will be able to fix just one.

Projects will help combine previously disconnected subjects and lessons, connect your teachers across department and grade level, and be the glue that holds next year’s blended learning environment together.

I would love to help you design yours.

Join one of the project- based learning coaching programs to discover PBL’s secrets; design a project; and be ready to implement with learners in 2020-2021!

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Kyle Wagner
School Transformation and Project- Based Learning Coach

I coach school leaders on how to lead change and improve student learning through simple, innovative srategies and teaming structures.

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