I caught myself again.
The last time was in 2013 and I wrote about it then too.
What did I catch myself doing? Rushing my children… and, by doing so, denying them countless opportunities to learn.
We’ve just moved to Paris. Everything is new. At the moment, the newest things are christmas decorations in the streets and the increasingly intense cold. Every morning, my children just want to look, talk, feel, experience, ponder, notice, appreciate and wonder. But, I have caught myself rushing them. Hurrying them up towards some imaginary or completely unimportant deadline – the need to be early, on time or not late.
It doesn’t really matter if I’m early, on time or not late. My children matter. their experiences of the world matter.
It’s shocking for an educator to do this to his own children. But, we do it to our students every day. We hurry them from lesson to lesson. We dictate their agenda all day. We reduce break times. We don’t give them enough time to eat. We decide if they can go to the toilet or not. We treat “inquiry” as a stand-alone subject that we do in the last period, if they’re lucky. We make their lives busy, indeed we teach the art of “busyness”, as if we don’t trust them to do anything of value if we don’t.
And yet, we all know that the most powerful learning happens when we slow down, when we give them sustained periods of time, when we don’t interrupt and when they’re making choices about why, how and what to learn.
Old habits die hard. How much of modern schooling is still “old habits”?
Recently, one of our Early Years Teachers – Jenna – said schools like ours are going through a bit of an “identity crisis”. She’s right.
One way we’re going though an identity crisis is in our use of time.
We all know that learning is most powerful when we allow it to flow, when we design learning that has momentum and then honour it by letting it continue. Instinctively, we can all sense when our students need more time and when stopping them is an interruption that they may not recover from.
But, what do we do every day of their lives in school? We stop them. We interrupt them. We create brief, fragmented bits of teaching for them. Its the stop-and-start, come-and-go, here-and-there, bits-and-bobs model of education. Its our special way of abusing time!
Fortunately, I am not alone in this way of thinking. A group of our teachers recently went to Learning2 in Manila and came back determined to undo the damage that had been done to their timetables… here are some ways we can all do this:
- Only have the bare minimum locked in to your timetables. In most schools, this just means specialist lessons that have specialist teachers.
- Plan one or two days in advance only. Allow the events of each day to inform what happens the next day.
- Have a paper version of your timetable, A3 is best, that you can write on. This way, you can “go with the flow” as well as indicate where and when you have done the essentials, such as stand-alone maths.
- Help your students understand the importance of momentum and flow in their learning and get them to tell you when they need more time or when they don’t.
- Get to know your curriculum like the back of your hand so that you and your students can make connections with it as learning evolves.
Your timetable is often the main thing that is holding genuine, deep learning back.