I have a wife. She teaches high school. She's great. We talk about education. A lot. She's teaching summer school.
This afternoon she told me that she talked with her summer class about using their independent time wisely. She actually gives her students independent work time. I told you she's great. She asked me if kindergarteners were able to stay focused and do their work during center time. I used to teach kindergarteners.
"Sure, for the most part," I said. "But you have to train them. Fourth-graders can do it too. But again, the training." I teach fourth-graders now.
"Well that's what I told my class. And they're doing pretty well. They're just not used to getting independent work time," she said.
I asked her why. She said that many high school teachers don't want to use valuable "teaching time" to let their students work by themselves on things. There is lots of pressure to get through everything. She explained that since they only have the students for a short period each day, many teachers shift into lecture mode. We thought the shift began to happen in middle school when teachers saw the students for less time each day.
That struck me as so incredibly sad. Class time = teaching time? Double sad when that is motivated by fear. Shifting into lecture mode may feel like good teaching, but I doubt it's good learning. It reduces teachers to pedagogical PEZ dispensers, shooting out non-nutritive rectangles of sugar and apathy.
I thought they should turn time on its head. Instead of thinking of it as teaching time, what if they thought of it as learning time? A steady diet of PEZ can't be good for anyone. Where is our focus? Teaching time or learning time?