Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Time well wasted

Last week I visited a school and the whole school walked outside. It was not a fire drill or an emergency. It was an intentional act.

On this particular day this school participated in the annual Walk to School Day. This school, which has a number of students live too far away to walk to school, has for years walked through the neighborhood on Walk to School Day.

No tests. No curriculum maps. No assignments.

Everyone - students, teachers, parents, and even the Superintendent - went for a walk.

Later that afternoon I visited another school. It was Fun Run Day! Classrooms of students made their way to the field to participate in running and skipping and walking. This was accompanied by laughing and talking. Clearly students, staff, and parents were enjoying themselves.

Again, no tests. No curriculum maps. No assignments.

School is important. Students come to school to learn. Schools - teachers and administrators - have a responsibility to ensure that students learn the knowledge and develop the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.

But every minute of every day cannot and should not be spent in a classroom with a book or listening to a teacher or taking a test. Those of us responsible for schools need to create space for students to waste time well.

This is not a call for unlimited free time or an excuse for teachers not to teach.

No, instead, this is a call for all of us to recognize that there is a social component to schools that should not be forgotten. Schools are places that students need to see adults laughing and talking and interacting in a positive way with their students. Schools are places where students need to laugh and talk and interact in a positive way with adults.

Our test-crazy accountability system tends to discourage thoughts of wasting time. But if we are to truly serve the students who attend our schools and who are in our care every day, then we have to make time to waste time well.