How Do Teachers Really Spend Their Time?
Each year, winners of TNTP’s Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice receive a $25,000 award, a month-long summer residency with TNTP, and last—but certainly not least—a lifetime membership in the Fishman Prize alumni program. This growing group of top educators convenes once a year for a “knights of the roundtable”-like conference. When some of the best teachers in the country get together to collectively reflect on the profession at large, we all win.
Last year, the Fishman Prize alumni voiced an important area of concern: Great teaching, of the sort these educators engage in, isn’t very sustainable. One teacher said the painfully honest joke among her colleagues is that once a teacher starts a family, you know they’re not coming back.
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Too many of our alumni said they felt teaching at a high level requires postponing or sacrificing other important life pursuits—and leads to burnout, dissatisfaction, and attrition. To compound the problem, many felt they were often required to devote time to administrative duties and other tasks (like lunchroom or hall monitoring) that take their focus off the part of their job that matters most: educating students.
In the course of this conversation, our alumni realized that few people — even within schools —bother to ask great teachers one simple question: How do you really spend your time?
The series is based on a two-week-long time-tracking experiment that the winners conducted during the 2014–15 school year. Five Fishman Prize alumni—including the prize’s namesake, Shira Fishman—meticulously tracked their time, using an app to break down every hour of their day into clear, specific categories, like instruction, planning, and administrative duties. In the interview series, you’ll find out the results of their time-tracking and hear directly from the alumni about their experiences. We will explore the surprises in their results, hear what each teacher learned about their time, and discuss potential implications for the teaching profession.
We invite you not only to listen to what some of America’s top teachers have to say about their time, but join in on the discussion on Medium, too. While it’s far from a scientific study, we hope that the insights and voices of the Fishman Prize alumni can spark a conversation about how we can create and maintain a teaching profession that allows its best practitioners to thrive over many years.