Schools in districts that aren’t ready to make the switch to four-day weeks can use creative approaches to scheduling to accommodate work from home days or reduced time spent in the school building. With a little planning, administrators can pre-arrange each teacher’s remote day or proactively establish an alternate schedule to ensure coverage.
“We are a single-site school without a district office to rely on for recruitment or staffing assistance. Increasing flex time for teachers has become one of my main concerns going into the new year,” explained the middle school principal of a charter school in New York. “We’re considering a four-day student week where grades will alternate coming to school Monday through Thursday and Tuesday through Friday. The fifth day would be flexible for teachers, either used for in-person meetings and planning or work from home days.”
Administrators can identify room for more flexibility within existing systems. For example, now might be the time to reconsider structures for professional development. Schools can offer teachers “work from home” days in lieu of traditional in-service days or re-evaluate “one-size-fits-all” training, only requiring attendance to those most affected then offering a recording of the session to staff who want to learn more. Rather than keeping teachers in the building longer, principals could deliver all-staff announcements, which typically require staff to gather in a common space after school, via recorded video.
Instead of traditional teacher job descriptions and staffing solutions, employ creative solutions that reduce in-building time for teachers. Educators in many school settings are often required to spend a significant portion of their days on cumbersome tasks like paperwork, forcing them to spend more time in the school building and less time at home or taking care of their families. Consider how to outsource duties to non-certified personnel who might be easier to hire.
A regional superintendent in New York shared her school’s creative hiring strategy this summer. “As we entered this year with several open positions, we sourced building assistants to take on clerical duties from teachers. We were looking for anyone with time to give – no background in education required. As a result, we were able to give teachers some of their time back and make new community connections.”
Just as corporate workers are nervous to come back to in-person workplaces, many teachers are nervous to come back to school or begin in-classroom teaching for the first time. Districts can draw inspiration from the creativity displayed by educators and reimagine their approach to teachers as employees. What might have seemed impossible pre-pandemic is not only possible now, but it’s what’s needed to address the deepening challenge of teacher retention.
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