For the past several weeks I have been musing on why the word back has seemed like an irritant and it became a little more clear this morning with a phone call about 2 of our 13 grandchildren going back to school today.
For them and most students returning to school, it’s more of the same. Schedules, homework, time constraints, packing as much into a period, day, week, month or semester as possible. Then adding on even more in the form of athletics, play and music practices, many of which are desirable and enjoyable. Living up to parent and teacher expectations, forging new friendships and rekindling old ones. Starting out with good intentions and high levels of energy and enthusiasm. All too familiar although routines, traditions and standards have their place and value.
I recall a piece of research years ago revealing that we have it bassackwards. We hold time constant and make education the variable. If we are serious about learning being the priority and not controlling time and behaviors so much we would rearrange the equation so that education would be the constant and time would be the variable. These kids do not all learn at the same rate or pace and we make few exceptions to the individual learning needs, styles and outcomes.
I said to our daughter that school is still too much like the prison and factory models of keeping the inmate workers occupied within the walls where we can control their movements and their behaviors. We want them to be productive and successful but we are not willing to try out new models that have been shown to be more effective. Reluctance and resistance to change must be in the DNA of schools that are locked into their comfort zones and married to the status quo.
A few alternatives? Get outside of “school” into the larger community where there is a plethora of learning opportunities and/or bring the outside community in the form of other people into the school as learning resources from the “real” world of work – science, math, industry, business, architecture, the arts, technology, you name it. Secondly, get more creative with the gift and use of time and not just a rotating schedule. Consider multi-age learning levels and groups. Choose a BIG theme or topic for a longer period of time and explore its multi-dimensional learning opportunities. Consider a global issue as an example and look at its history, its literature, the people involved, the current status and the future. Redesign and rebuild your center of learning and call it something other than school that has meaning, purpose and value. Have a great year ahead as you go forward to school, not back to the same, year after year after year.