I think there is an interesting parallel to be drawn between this recent TIME Magazine article titled, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” and a longer school day and year.
Don’t really have a clue as to what it is, but hey, I gotta type something right now, don’t I? I mean if a blogger blogs in the forest and no one is there to comment… aw, forget it, I am WAY off track.
No, seriously, the point is, that exercise without attention to diet will not make one thinner. And so it also goes that longer school hours and more days in the classroom will not automatically make a student more student-y. Applying poor teaching strategies, using drill-n-kill worksheets, having kids read the textbook then answer the textbook questions in the back of each chapter and then have them do it over again for longer durations of time — well, simply put, these are not the answer to our educational ills.
Yes, I firmly believe we need more time in our classrooms. I do think the school year is too short. (After all, having the summer off was an agricultural need of society back in the day; these days the prime agricultural involvement of a teenager’s summer, if there is one at all, revolves around the agricultural product known as weed). The school day could use more hours as well. (I mean, as all studies show, the “witching hour” — that is, the time when kids get into the most trouble (i.e. fights, sex, drugs, shoplifting, and so on) — is between 3-7 p.m. A longer day that doesn’t start as early — so the kids aren’t as groggy — doesn’t strike me as such a bad thing. Sure, there are details to work out — and the inconvenience to all of us would be tremendous — but if we are seeking to best serve the kids, we do, in my opinion, need a longer school year and a longer school day.
But what goes on during these extended hours has got to become more productive. That’s the real issue. Doing something poorly for longer amounts of time isn’t going to make one any better at it. Doing it better will.
The jogger that eats jelly doughnuts doesn’t lose as much weight as the non-jogger who does not eat jelly doughnuts (and all akin junk food). Okay, I get it. And as much as we need to change our schedule (which we do), we moreso need to improve our intellectual nutritional offerings… that’s where we’re gonna make the real “weight” gains.
So what’s the answer? PD!!
PD — professional development — is the lynchpin. Without better preparing our nation’s teachers to do a more efficient, effective, more productive job, we are just re-arranging deck chairs. I mean let’s not mistake activity for productivity (to borrow a phrase).
And really, who does not need PD? I mean without people showing me how to bring things like nings into my classroom this year, it ain’t just gonna appear under my pillow the night before school as delivered by the Teacher Fairy.
PD: the national conversation not enough people are having.