The concept of “wait time” isn’t anything new to educators. Every year, new teachers have to get used to suppressing that urge they feel to fill silence in their classrooms so that their students have quiet processing time. We know students need wait time to process the importance of new information, but what about teachers? Do they need wait time as part of their professional learning? I think so. Here’s why:
Case Study #1: Digital Note-Taking
Last year at this time our school was experiencing significant growth and brought on over 30 new teachers. One new teacher was eager to try out our digital workflow and feedback tools. She was able to really master one tool in particular for the distribution and collection of assignments. She stuck with it all year and had success.
What set her apart was the meeting she requested with my colleague and I at the end of the school year. As digital learning specialists, part of our job is to offer personalized coaching to teachers who are looking for specific solutions and to meet their own professional goals. In this case, the teacher wanted to move the needle even further and consider permitting digital note-taking for her students. She asked us about the benefits and drawbacks when it came to storing resources, organization, and access.
It has been three and a half months since that meeting. She mulled it over during the summer.
Yesterday, as I walked to my office at the beginning of the school day, that same teacher stopped me in the hall and excitedly told me she has gone completely paperless. Now, whether a teacher uses paper or not is not what truly matters. What matters is that she is excited because her new students this year are more organized and their notes contain more images, are in full color, and are more personalized than anything they could do on paper.
We gave her wait time. She used that time this summer to think and tinker. Now her students are the beneficiaries.
Case Study #2: Engage All Students With Discussion Tools
My colleagues and I presented at and attended a conference hosted by a nearby district last April. It also happened to be the district I left to join my current school. It was a bittersweet professional experience to see my former coworkers again and share both memories and updates. But five months later I found out that my new colleagues and I had more of an impact on the educators there than we realized.
A former coworker reached out via Facebook to ask about tool we used during our workshop because she wanted to utilize it with her students to promote discussion. (See screenshot) Perhaps during the last weeks of school she was not in a position to introduce a new tool or method in her classroom, but now that she has a fresh new school year she is more ready to dive in.
What is most important is that she felt comfortable reaching out after five months to investigate so that she could try this new tool with her students.
How Much Wait Time is Enough Time?
When it comes to edtech, we want teachers to take some time adopting new tools as they carefully consider the impact on teaching and learning. That is certainly preferable to a situation that pushes teachers to use new edtech tools merely because they are trendy or flashy.
As school leaders and instructional coaches, we must remember that educators might not implement new technology immediately after they learn about them in a training. Just as our students sometimes need “wait time” to process the significance of new information, teachers might need some time to figure out how a new tool will benefit their students’ learning and their teaching. This wait time should remain reasonable, of course. In the examples here, wait time amounted to a few months, not years. While some wait time is good, avoiding progress is not helpful. Knowing when to give teachers space and when to push them is part of being an effective leader.