Wacky Wednesday: Not so crazy

“Wacky Wednesday” is just another school day in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.  Elementary school used to let out at noon on Wednesday to give teachers time to discuss new teaching strategies and plan lessons. Children played at school or went home.

In response to parents’ complaints, the Laramie County School District 2 board  voted for a conventional schedule.

In other countries, teachers have much more time to collaborate, reports the National Staff Development Council. Only 20 percent of U.S. teachers’ time is spent on working with colleagues and improving their teaching skills.

In most European and Asian countries, meanwhile, teacher training is commonly part of the regular school week. Teachers in those countries typically spend less than half of their working time teaching, according to the council’s report. Yet the students in many of those countries, who spend less time in class than American students, outscore their American counterparts in math and science, the report said.

Laramie County educators credit the weekly in-school training led by a master teacher with higher reading and math scores in the district.

Giving teachers time for training and collaboration isn’t all that wacky. Wednesday was a short day — but not as short as in Pine Bluffs — when my daughter was in Palo Alto schools.  A volunteer-lead enrichment program — sports, music, art, computer time — would have been helpful for working parents, but we coped without it.

About Joanne


  1. American teachers spend twenty percent of their time on training while European teachers spend half their time on training and European kids do better? I can see the direction of things.

    Clearly the National Staff Development Council would like to leave the implication that more training time correlates with better student learning.

    Jinkies! I wonder if there’s any self-interest in operation here?

    Naw. That’s just cynical.

    I wonder if there are any defensible studies about the amount of training time, not including time spent learning content, needed to learn the skills necessary to be a competent teacher? I wonder who’d find some value in exerting the effort do such a study?

  2. Margo/Mom says:


    I think that in other countries “training” is understood somewhat differently than the way that we understand it. We tend to see it as a “class” in which teachers receive information and handouts from some expert. Contrast this with Japanese lesson study–teacher delivered, job-embedded, targeted at the improvement of student learning. Make no mistake–this does not mean “anything goes.” The methodology is tightly defined. Presenting a lesson for study is a priviledge that only comes with experience. Leading a group only follows presentation experience.

    It’s a bit tricky to find collaborative time in American schools–but as Joanne suggested (and I have experienced), it is possible throught creative scheduling of none-core classes (the “specials” such as art, phys ed, music, etc) to at least get all of the “regular” teachers in the same room for a time on a regular basis. In some countries (Hong Kong, I believe) there is a trade-off of larger classes in order to have less teaching time and more planning/collaboration time. It’s something to think about, given the mixed results that are always reported for smaller class size. A shift to fewer classers, or fewer preparations, might have better results.

  3. Hunter McDaniel says:

    I work in the I/T industry where both training and collaboration are very important. But we would never dream of shutting down our customer-facing production in order to make time for those things.

    Which is just one of many reasons why I think schools would be much better if they had to compete for ‘customers’ who have real choice, rather than have ‘subjects’ with no real choice delivered to them automatically .

  4. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Hunter: Wow. I teach teenagers and I can’t even follow your logic there.

    Collaboration and good professional development is extremely important. How do you think good teachers become great? They figure out how to do that — stupidly, often in spite of the system. We’re asked to assess and teach based on data, yet given no time to analyze and plan based on that very data.

    A teacher’s job is not just face-time with the kids. An attorney’s job is not just face-time in court or with clients. If you have a job that requires preparation, that is part of your scheduled day (yes, I recognize we all do work after hours as professionals). Great teachers spend an enormous amount of time planning their instruction.

    The time can be expensive to provide, but it often does not require too much in terms of outside consultants. I’ve had very effective training from (and collaboration with) experienced teachers in my own district. (Although I’ve found the APSI’s to be excellent.)

  5. Our school gets out an hour early on Wednesdays for this exact purpose, but we never do anything with the time. Instructional leaders set no goals or objectives for this time, have no plan to follow, and ask for no feedback or insight from it. At my previous school we did not receive any time for this, and yet pursued it during lunch and our off periods all the time because we found great value in it as a department. An early attempt to organize some collaborative efforts with colleagues in my new school was met with complete apathy – mostly because the impression is that there’s nothing to improve upon and everyone is going to do their own thing.

  6. I have taught Japanese students English in the past and have had opportunities to sit down with their teachers and discuss schools. Teachers there typically get up to 3 hours a day planning and colloboration time. The teachers were all from the city, Naze City but seemed to believed this was typical of most Japanese districts.

    At my current school we have 1 hour per day, and this is the most I have ever had.

  7. Well Margo/Mom if training has different meanings in different countries then I would’ve expected the National Staff Development Council to note the discrepency and not try to pass it off as equivalent to whatever the American idea of teacher training might be. That indicates a desire to decieve and obfuscate, not clarify.

    And since you bring up the Japanese public education system, isn’t it notable for placing a great deal of emphasis on rote memorization, practically to the exclusion of an understanding of the underlying concepts, and a testing regime that’s hardly short of draconian? How much value can there be in the sort of teacher training that results in teachers who are capable of doing little more then drilling volumes of data into kid’s heads?

    Oh Mike, you’re so transparent.

    Charmed by the idea of spending half as much time working as you do now? What will you do to compensate? Whine twice as much that you don’t get the respect you so clearly deserve?

    And really, as long as you’re dreaming, why dream small?

    Instead of three hours a day in “planning and collaboration” why not six? Imagine what a magnificent teacher you’d be if you didn’t have to waste time in the classroom but could spend every minute in “planning and collaboration”!

  8. Allen,

    How typical of you to turn a mere observation into a personal attack. I have to give you some credit, you managed to turn my one remark into a broad attack on not only American teachers but Japanese teachers as well.

    As always, when you have no facts you make it personal.

  9. Oh Mike, don’t whine.

    Along with being undignified and peckish, you should be aware that Texas – and this is a little-known fact – as a condition of joining the union retained the right to expel anyone deemed insufficiently-Texan.

    Whining, particularly, whining in preference to a substantive reply, is grounds for deportation to California. I repeat, C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A.

    You’ve been warned.

  10. Oh Allen, so devoid of fact or logic in your arguements.

  11. Allen, your ignorance is shocking.

    Did it occur to you to READ the National Staff Development Council’s report? They are very clear about the differences between typical professional development (what you call “training”) as practiced in the U.S. and in other countries whose students are doing well. They have a set of very highly regarded standards for staff development that spell out what effective professional development looks like–in the U.S. or in any other country.

    And–yes–they have an interest in seeing more schools improve their professional development practices. That’s their mission as a non-profit. That’s why they marshal EVIDENCE in support of their claims. (You might want to try that some time.)

    The notion that teachers’ need for time to prepare or collaborate with peers is somehow evidence of laziness is unbelievably wrong-headed.

  12. Besides Allen, my screen name is Mike IN Texas, not Mike FROM Texas