The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Using Half-Time Teachers to Improve Teaching

on April 15, 2016

While resting in an airport lounge yesterday I picked up a copy of The Denver Post and read an article about a teacher mentoring program in the city schools called “The Teacher Leadership and Collaboration Model“.  In its third year the program has 383 mentor teachers teaching their classes every morning, then leaving to work with 2,400 inexperienced or mediocre teachers in the afternoons.  (Six or more teachers per mentor). Half-time teachers have been hired to takeover the mentor teachers’ classrooms for the second half of the school day.  As far as I could see there is no contact between the morning and afternoon teachers or continuity of the mentors with particular teachers in need.  That article made me think of a similar program we created for different reasons in the Madison, Wisconsin elementary school where I was principal.  In today’s post I will explain the structure of our program then leave it to readers to compare its structure to the Denver program.

It all started with an unusual request from an excellent teacher at our school.  She asked to reduce her contract to half-time for the following year because she had two young children and wanted to be at home with them for part of the day.  I said “Yes” to her request because I wanted to help her, also because I knew she would lose her job entirely if I said “No,” and be unlikely to ever get it back again.

Over my years at that school, I said, “Yes” to three more teachers for various reasons, and was surprised and satisfied by the results.  The structure we decided upon was to have one teacher in the morning and one in the afternoon–much like in the Denver schools– but with a daily overlap during the school noon-hour.  In that time the two teachers were expected to meet, share plans, discuss student problems and make sure they were on the same track with rules, procedures, and discipline.  Before hiring a second teacher, the first one and I met with all candidates and made sure we had one who would work well in this demanding situation.

In the beginning of this two-teacher structure I saw it only as a concession to a teacher I respected and wanted to keep.  But that structure also turned out to be a benefit to several teachers, our students, and the school district.  In the first place all the teachers I hired as half-timers were either new to teaching or relatively inexperienced.  So the morning teachers became their mentors, not only through their daily noon hour meetings, but also at times when they volunteered their time to observe or co-teach.  In return, the afternooners often came in voluntarily during mornings to observe and assist their mentors.  In addition, they were usually available to be paid substitutes when the morning teachers had to be absent.  In all respects the two-teacher structure at our school created a productive partnership, not only in sharing time, but also in encouraging, tempering, and enriching each other’s work.  All subjects and each student received more attention than tey would have from having only one teacher.

The school district also benefitted from this structure in two ways.  Financially, it was better to have a lower paid teacher for half-days.  But more important, the district was also grooming beginning teachers to be effective full-timers later on at no extra cost.  Ultimately, because of our structure -which lasted several years, the district got extra teacher time, greater teacher dedication, and better teaching in return for allowing us some leeway in the usual employment system.










2 responses to “Using Half-Time Teachers to Improve Teaching

  1. Don Bellairs says:

    When we make the shift from one teacher w/ one group of students for a year to teams of teachers working with pools of kids, part-time teaching will be much easier.


  2. doctorsam7 says:

    Sounds like a real win win! When I did Reading Recovery, some 1st grade teachers did recovery for 1/2 day then did a class the other half. In that way a team of 2 teachers covered the room and the district had 2 half time recovery teachers. Another win win.


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