Teacher work time : team times in the timetable? A school shows how it’s done

What is lacking in many schools due to the rigid compulsory hours model for teachers, the Green Gesamtschule makes the basic principle of its work. Team times for teachers are firmly anchored in the daily routine. Martina Zilla Seifert, who co-founded the concept, explains in an interview with the School portal, how it works.


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The Green Gesamtschule (formerly Gesamtschule am Kornerplatz) is the winner of the German School Award 20|21 Special. The detailed concept can be read here.

On this January morning of all days, a state of emergency has broken out at Green Comprehensive School. 20 of the approximately 100 educators are sick or in quarantine, Omikron has reached the school in Duisburg with its approximately 900 students. Principal Martina Zilla Seifert is at home herself due to a Corona infection, while we are connected to her via video for a conversation about innovative working time models.

What to do? Eliminate colleagues’ team hours in order to secure instruction for students? "Absolutely not, that would be the beginning of the end," Seifert answers resolutely.

The school was founded as a team school in 2015

What would probably be the obvious answer to a lack of teachers for most school administrators would only come into question for them if nothing else worked at all. Since its founding in 2015, the Green Comprehensive School has been based on the team model, which means that team times for cooperation in the college are provided for in the timetable with fixed times. In the meantime, the school has become a reference school for the area of team development processes of the Quality and Support Agency of the North Rhine-Westphalia State Institute for Schools (Qua-LiS NRW). And the lessons are also based on the cooperative work of the students according to the concept of Norm and Kathy Green.

Principal Martina Zilla Seifert developed the school concept with her staff, now she is about to retire. She does not fear that the team structures could be lost after her departure. In the end, they would have proven their worth, and the teachers would now appreciate the advantages.

Seifert relied on the effect of positive experience from the very beginning. This is because it is also tied to the compulsory hours model, which in NRW provides 25.5 hours for the comprehensive school form.

A pot of relief hours and the principle of hope

The rigid working hours model for teachers makes it difficult for schools to establish cooperative hours. Working hours are based on the number of hours to be taught. Other tasks such as corrections at home, further training, lesson preparation or even teamwork are included as a lump sum, but are not defined more precisely in scope. Project work, collaborative lesson development, cross-curricular concepts – all are slowed down as a result.

To give the team model a firm structure nonetheless, Seifert uses a "trick".
Teachers who work in a fifth or sixth grade class at Green Gessamt School have one and a half fewer hours of instruction to teach each week. There are fixed cooperation times in the timetable for this. During this time, the respective class teams sit together in an office to prepare lessons together, evaluate each other’s lessons, exchange information about dissonances between the learning groups, or even discuss personal matters from time to time. Such a class team includes at least four colleagues: two teachers who share class leadership, an advisory school board member, and a colleague from the multiprofessional team or from the "cooperative learning" facilitator team. Once a month, the school support staff and, if needed, a special education specialist are also called in.

Teamwork is not done "on top", but is credited and remunerated – in the fifth year with a double lesson per week, in the sixth year with a single lesson. The school uses for this the so-called LehrerInnentopf for the relief of tasks, which every school in North Rhine-Westphalia has in its personnel budget for free disposal. This organization is facilitated by the fact that there are hardly any part-time employees at the Green Gesamtschule.

And this pot of relief hours is sufficient for such a model? "No!", says Seifert, who will not stop campaigning for a new teacher work-time model and better staffing for schools even after her active time as principal. Starting in seventh grade, those relief hours for team time no longer exist at Green Comprehensive School. In return, there is still double class management up to the ninth grade.

Teamwork increases well-being at work

The fact that the idea of teamwork continues to work beyond the sixth grade, even without the relief hours provided for it, is due solely to the special commitment of teachers. "We hoped that after two years, teachers would understand that they need these team times and then continue them anyway, even if they no longer count toward their mandatory hours," Seifert says.

Hope rises. "The joint work not only relieves the burden, it also creates relationships that colleagues do not easily give up again. They no longer have the feeling that work alienates them. After all, it’s meaningful when others see that you’re doing a good job."The positive effects on well-being and health have also been shown in a survey of teachers – Copsoq NRW. The majority of colleagues said they found the team times to be a relief in a challenging profession.

And another very important advantage has been shown in the Corona Pandemic. Due to the existing team structures, the school was able to react agilely to the new situation and to adapt its concepts. Existing teacher exchange formats could easily be moved to digital. "The team structure was a guarantee that we could continue, even without face-to-face teaching," says Seifert.

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