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Friday, February 17, 2012

Count the Opportunity Cost of Teacher Tasks (Big Little Thing #4)



We talk about cost in monetary terms all the time. No one talks about opportunity cost. Education should start now. This is definitely a very little thing with BIG implications for turning around schools.

Opportunity cost is the opportunity you give up when you or your employees work on something else. Teachers have a certain number of hours to work in a day. There is a finite limit to the number of hours they have. Do we ever consider the cost of what we're asking teachers to do?

Here are some examples:


  • When a teacher spends one hour completing paperwork that no one will read.
  • Attending a meeting that no one wanted to have and no measurable outcome was attained for a person who justifies his existence by having meetings.
  • Putting lesson plans in an extensive format that have no measurable improvement in how the lesson will be delivered in the classroom.
  • Paperwork that no one will read.
  • Having teachers file paperwork.
  • Forcing a teacher to use a system (like a word wall) that they don't feel applies to their curriculum and takes them away from their focus.
  • Did I say PAPERWORK THAT NO ONE WILL READ, USE OR EVEN LOOK AT EVER AGAIN?
  • Constantly shifting priorities into opposite directions causing a complete overhaul of classroom systems and pedagogies.
  • Causing a teacher to wait incessantly for approval to move their furniture or gain approval for improving their own classroom in even small ways.
  • Paper work? (Let's just call it Paper waste, shall we?)

There are many teachers who are great paper pushers and poor teachers. More commonly, there are great teachers who hate the paperwork and are in constant trouble for not turning it in.

Some poor administrators often choose paperwork over face to face supervision and monitoring of what is happening in the class. In today's world, we could video what is happening in the classroom as documentation of what is going on with a student. 

Lawmakers never count the opportunity cost of putting more paperwork on schools but good administrators do. Paperwork costs money. It also costs opportunity. 

Right now we need every opportunity to improve teaching in the classroom that we can get. Let's start by counting the opportunity cost and using technology to save time.

Photo credit: Big Stock

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