In yesterday’s post, I referred you to Larry Cuban’s article, The Perennial Reform: Fixing School Time In the article, Cuban raises questions about many of the time-related debates, including the idea that spending more time in school will increase the success of students and the overall effectiveness of schools. Longer school years and longer school days have long been promoted as a viable option for school reform but, for a variety of reasons cited by Cuban, the ideas have never really taken root.
I wanted to connect something that Cuban addresses in the latter part of his article, something that resonated with the focus group work on which we just reported in Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach: Now and in the Future and something that has long been an irritant to many teachers that I know.
While I have no doubt that tacking time onto the school day, or onto the school year may have an impact for some students, I don’t think that it’s the answer. Instead, I believe that we need to start treating the time that we do have with a lot more respect and care. It’s my experience—and I’m speaking from an elementary K-8 perspective—that we could find ways to approach the time that is currently at our disposal.
From my experience, here are four of the biggest time thieves:
- Currently, many schools have students line up (cue up!) outside the school and wait for their teacher to come before being allowed to proceed into the school. This is done first thing in the morning, after lunch, as well as after morning or afternoon breaks. The way I figure it, we spend a good 10-15 minutes a day lining up to come into the school.
- I find that the first 10-15 minutes of each day can be a hectic period of collecting money for trips, book orders, pizza, milk and a whole host of “other” things. A huge “time vacuum”, these activities usually require at least minimal amounts of attention by the teacher and can often delay the ability to “get going” right away.
- Morning Announcements. Part of the ritual of school, I know but, again, these can be real time suckers.
- P.A. interruptions throughout the day. The biggest “flow-breaker” of them all, the call over the intercom for a teacher or student to report to the office, for someone to return the gym storage key, or reminders about dressing warmly on cold days are commonplace, at least in my experience.
A couple of comments. First, I think that we can do a whole lot more in our school days/daze, the way that they are currently structured to allow for, and even encourage, a greater sense of flow. Second, I’m confident that some of you may have tackled these issues already, and I would invite you to share some of the things that you’ve tried in your local context.
I’m pretty sure that we won’t be seeing year-round schools, extended days, or weekend schooling coming to a public school near you in the near future. But, I’m equally confident that the time that we do have at our disposal each day can be organized, structured and protected in different ways.
What do you think? I look forward to the conversation.
It’s my experience (I’m speaking from an elementary, K-8 background) that the idea of time is not given the amount of respect that it deserves.