Ahhhhh, spring is in the air. The sun is peeking through the clouds and temps are reaching a toasty 55 degrees (this is Northern Illinois – 50 degrees is basically summer). Students are starting to get squirrely and I can’t even blame them. I find myself wanting to go outside and not cross things off my lengthy to-do list. But alas – this is life. Things must get done. Snap back to reality…(Oh there goes gravity….anyone? ANYONE?!).
As the school year winds down, this usually means preparing final units, one last school improvement day, attempting to find the bottom of your classroom, and finally, looking at class sections for the next year.
Many schools go about this differently. Some teachers have no say in the classes they end up teaching (sadface). Some schools have teachers pick the top three classes they want, and then an administrator tries their best to get the schedule right. Some even have you choose the bottom three you would want, and an administrator goes from there. My school has tried a few different options throughout the years, but always ends up going back to the same one…letting the departments make their own schedules.
WHAT?! HOW CAN IT BE?! HOW DO YOU NOT RIP EACH OTHER’S HEADS OFF VYING FOR YOUR BELOVED CLASSES?!
I feel you. Believe me. I am lucky enough to belong to a department that believes in equitability. Many schools fall into the routine of veteran teachers getting all the advanced classes or at least all the classes of their choice, while the newbies get stuck with the leftovers. We wanted to be sure that didn’t happen – it’s a sure-fire way to lose teachers. But before I tell you how my department managed to walk away from this with all of our limbs intact, let me lay out the necessities for this to work.
- You need to have a department that gets along and genuinely cares about each other. This is MUCH harder when there is animosity between coworkers.
- You need to be organized and you have to have a system.
- Flexibility is key. You need an awareness of everyone’s specialties, but everyone needs to be open to something new.
- You have to start with a blank, clean slate. No one gets “dibs” on any classes. No egos allowed.
If you are missing any of these, this task will inevitably be harder – but still doable.
First, each department is given a list of all the sections currently scheduled for the next year (ex: 13 sections of freshman biology, 4 sections of anatomy & physiology, etc). Then, each department breaks off to discuss the sections with each other. This may seem daunting at first, especially if you work in a big school with a large department – we have 10 science teachers, all of whom teach 3 preps a piece – but after you get organized, it becomes a much easier task.
The first thing our department did was come up with a 4-tier system – tier 1 being the least challenging courses and tier 4 being the most challenging courses. The reason for this tiered system was to ensure that no one tried to claim all the higher-level classes, leaving someone else with all the lower-level classes. We wanted to make sure that not only were tiers evenly spread out, but also split between at least 2 teachers for collaboration purposes. Then, each tier was assigned a colored index card.
Once the index cards were all filled out, we started taping them to the wall into what looked like a large scale excel sheet/data table. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Couldn’t you just do this in actual excel?” Yes, that is a very viable plan if that’s what you’re into, but long story short – we are VERY visual, hands-on people. We needed to physically move the pieces and see it on a large scale. It proved to be an awesome decision and worked great for us!
After discussing everyone’s top three choices, we did some rearranging. The last and final step was to make sure like-sections were split up throughout the day. For example, not all sections of General Chemistry were in the morning or all Microbiology classes in the afternoon. It took us a few days to perfect, but we all ended up with at least two classes that we wanted, and some even got all three! We were flexible and some of us took on a new class, but in the end, we all came out satisfied. Even better, we came out knowing that we had at least one collaboration partner for each class, and no one left feeling like they got the short end of the stick.
Do you have a plan that has worked great for you? Share it with us – we’d love to hear about it! Good luck and happy choosing!