In a transformed education profession, the academic needs of the student body would determine the structure of the school day, week, and year. Students would no longer be held in lock-step, age-based cohorts (grades), but would instead progress through the system based on what they know and can do. Some students may need a longer school day or school year, while others performing at or above grade level might be able to learn within the time traditionally allotted or at an even faster pace. For teachers, this means that the hours of instruction might vary depending on the student population. Teachers working with students in need of additional learning time might have extended hours of instruction to provide every student with time and support to master the content. As instructional leaders, principals will work with teachers to determine the most effective strategies to utilize time.
Teachers would work professional weeks and days—as many do already—that extend beyond the traditional school day to include the extra hours needed to get the job done. Removing the outdated punch-the-clock model that currently exists in many schools would enable teachers to have more choice and flexibility in how they use each day to accomplish their goals. More flexibility in the school day would also allow teachers time for reflection, for the review of student data, for ongoing professional development, for research and tool development, and for collaborative problem solving and planning with colleagues, including special education teachers and those who teach English Learners. In some cases, time spent on duties out of class might far exceed the amount spent in the classroom. Even when the hours of instruction remain roughly the same, many teachers would work year-round to provide additional instruction for certain students, to collaborate with colleagues, and to engage in meaningful professional learning. For example, a cohort of teachers who focus on remediating students who are falling behind might have a lighter load during the normal school schedule, but they might use additional periods to help students who need more time. Others might participate in strategic planning for the school, extracurricular activities with students (college tours, summer field trips, etc.), or curriculum development during the extended time. Principals will maximize use of the additional time, not by adding to teachers' workloads, but by teaming with teacher leaders at the school to provide the structures, schedules, and systems needed to support great teaching.
Finally, to provide the flexibility that teachers might need at different points in their careers—and to allow schools to meet students' needs most efficiently—part time teaching opportunities could be available so that some teachers may work fewer hours a day, fewer days a week, or fewer months a year. Teaching is uniquely suited to this type of flexible staffing, and it should be an option offered to teachers and schools with unique needs, for example those in rural or hard-to-staff areas.