No Time For… _________________ ?

Wes Fryer’s post “No Time For Technology In High Schools” follows up other tirades he has made about no time for recess and other areas now deemed “less important.” He states:

NO TIME. No time for projects, no time for fun activities, no time for in-depth learning because there is too much curriculum to cover.

He goes on to say that the major problem is the quantity of standards needing to be met.

I vehemently agree. So how did we get there?

If Wes was having this conversation with a supporter of NCLB he would be told rather abruptly that teachers and administrators were involved in writing and adopting the standards at each state – so go cry to them. And they would be right… sort of. Teachers were involved – but which teachers and how and why did they make the decisions they made? I know at the elementary level in my state the teachers that were picked for each subject were teachers that were award winning teachers for the subject they were chosen to work on. But ask those teachers about their typical classroom day and here is what you will generally find. They give more time to that subject.

I took over a class from an award winning elementary teacher who was a great math teacher – she told me that she was glad I was getting her class because I was stronger at language arts than she was. She was wrong. When I talked to the students she had them doing great language arts activities – but the typical day they described had a constant math focus.

They started the day with a math problem “sponge” activity, then corrected math homework and did a quick review for students that didn’t do well, while others did math explorations. But that wasn’t math class – that came later in the day. She also would do oral math drill during transition times during the day, and would spend more time occasionally doing large math explorations as a project outside of their usual math time. Now this is great math teaching and I don’t fault her for it except – guess what the great elementary language arts teachers do? Science teachers? – get it? Pretty much all of them give that subject extra time and attention. So they can get through more curriculum and they are more successful at covering more material. Math (or whichever subject) is their life so they don’t see a standard they don’t think is important.

Now I’m generalizing here a bit, but that is one way we get over exuberant standards. Then how do you argue with those standards without being labeled as someone who wants to “dumb down” the standards? I constantly hear parents question why their son or daughter needs to know how to do this or that, but they won’t question the standards for various reasons.

I agree with Wes, we need to revisit the standards. Not to “dumb them down,” but to make them relevant and meaningful. Then we might have time for the important things.

Learning is messy!

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