Chicago VIVA Teachers Recommend Better Ways to Spend Time in School

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In the first district-level VIVA Project, Chicago Public Schools teachers participated in an online Idea Exchange to share their best ideas on how to build a better school day, week and year. Their report, which proposed 49 ideas, was presented Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard on Dec. 12, 2012, and will be presented to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis on Dec. 13, 2012.

Chicago VIVA teachers spent two months developing the report, “Time, Teachers and Tomorrow’s Schools,” which includes 49 ideas for ways to use the time they have in school to better serve the needs of teachers and their students.

Among the innovative suggestions:

  • Convert to a year-long quarterly schedule, using school breaks for remediation, enrichment and professional development.  Such a schedule would increase the uninterrupted focus teachers and students could devote to content.
  • Require students to attend school on Veteran’s Day, Pulaski Day, Columbus Day and Lincoln’s Birthday, along with special instructional activities that relate to the topic of the holiday.
  • Implement a staggered schedule that would allow students to attend school from 8 am to 5 pm, with two shifts for teachers, one from 8-3 and a second from 10-5.  The overlapping work hours would significantly increase teachers’ capacities for differentiation, team teaching and common planning time as well as provide adults to cover playground supervision and intense remediation or supplemental instruction.   This would increase students’ time in school and offer both teachers and students more resources.
  • Start the school day with club and co-curricular activities as an incentive to get students to school on time.

During the 20-day initial online collaboration, nearly 600 Chicago Public School teachers joined the online conversation and shared 418 ideas and comments about how to optimally use time with their students. Professors from our partners at National Louis University provided research-based resources to the teachers as they explored the ideas together.

The deep collaboration gave VIVA Chicago teachers a chance to connect the dots between their professional training, the realities of their classrooms and system-wide needs. “This process allows teachers to have a voice and participate in planning so that our efforts can be focused on our real role in education: helping the students,” said Gin Thomas-Hooks, a librarian at Austin Business & Entrepreneurship Academy.

Participating teachers were inspired to draw their students into the discussion. In response to one teacher’s question about a year-round school schedule, a high school student rapped this answer about why he wanted this schedule:

“Good for students,
bad for the environment
just because we black,
jobs ain’t hiring.”

“This multi-faceted dialogue is confirmation of why we created The VIVA Project,” said Elizabeth Evans, the Founding CEO. “We know teachers have a wealth of wisdom gained by navigating between big systems and their own classrooms day in and day out.  We all need to hear more directly from classroom teachers.”

“As a university with a 125-year history of educating future teachers, National Louis is pleased to apply our deep research capabilities and education policy knowledge to The VIVA Project,” said Dr. Nivine Megahed, National Louis president. “We see a lot of value in ‘rolling up our sleeves’ to become actively involved with projects like this that give teachers a voice and identify specific solutions to help shape education reform.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Pingback: Remainders: Injecting teachers’ voice into Chicago’s time debate | GothamSchools

  2. Pingback: Weekly Roundup for December 16, 2011 | The ExpandED Exchange

    • Edward Dziedzic

      Well, apparently you just love charter schools. Please explain, however, how funding does not matter, yet the top funded schools in the state are almost always the top performing schools as well?

  3. I was one of the eleven teachers that worked on this project. I would like to thank the staff at VIVA and National Louis University. The process was quite enlightening. It was like taking an online course on how time is utilized in schools at warp speed. I feel I got more than I gave. My contribution was minor compared to what I learned about how I spend my time as a teacher. I think I have grown as a teacher from this experience.

    I had the honor meeting Mr. Brizard and Ms. Lewis and they are both very passionate about their constituents. I believe that Mr. Brizard truly wants to provide the public school children of Chicago with a quality education. I also believe that Ms. Lewis is fighting for teacher’s rights.

    Administrators are in the process of making decisions that will affect 600,000+ citizens of Chicago. BUT, and I think this is important; those decisions have not been made, yet. Everyone has been invited to the table. It is my belief that we need to pass the plate and not throw the food at each other.

    There is a time to fight for your rights. To strike, to sit-in, to say, I am not going to take this anymore. Shout out to the 99%. But sometimes, with some people, it is the time to come to a consensus on what’s best for all concerned. Maybe if the parents had Viva, their encounter at the Board of Education would have ended more productively.

    Viva teachers met with Mr. Brizard and Ms. Lewis, but in retrospect, we needed a third meeting. Who best represents the parents? The LSC? The PTA? PURE? I think one more meeting might be in order. Out of respect. They are, in fact, the most important stakeholder, because without them, there would be no table to come to.

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