Time Keeper Collects and Analyzes First Semester Data
Fifteen weeks of data, with a daily tally of the time available to me, as a teacher of upper elementary students, to teach. Halfway through the semester it became clear that it was “time to learn,” not “time to teach” that seemed to be in such short supply. I retained my designation of “Curriculum and Instructional” Time, but I began to think of it more and more as “learning time.”
The results of 15 weeks of time-keeping: 12.87 hours was the average available time to learn in a week. With the holidays figured in (there were 8 days when students were not at school during the normal 5-day week), the average daily instructional time was 4 hours.
I am surprised. I anticipated a lower figure. Perhaps because those 4 hours are broken up into so many pieces, a half-hour here, an hour there, it seems less than four hours in my daily classroom experience. When the instructional time is broken up, punctuated with an assembly or a “free book” distribution or a schoolwide morning assessment—or even the daily lunch/recess break—the interactions necessary to access Vygotsky’s ZPD for powerful learning simply do not occur in adequate supply.
Gatto decries the way in which school time is constantly broken up into small pieces, 40 minutes to learn something and then move on. He suggests that these constant interruptions of the thinking process run counter to all the habits of learning, and that the schooling schedule for students actually prevents critical thinking or creative problem-solving. Just as the brain starts to engage in the problem, the bell rings and it is time to think about something else. Sustained inquiry or deep thought is thereby squelched. Perhaps this method is not so exaggerated in an elementary school, and I have always believed that Montessori’s emphasis on the “uninterrupted work period” was aimed exactly at reversing this typical schooling pattern. However, when Montessori meets the traditional school schedule, the Montessori minimum of a 3-hour work period (preferable twice a day) is thwarted, rendered impossible.
It is time to stop counting now. I have learned that students have about four hours at school in my classroom each day to learn. Until I think of a way to count the time that they are actually engaged in the learning process, this time-keeping means little.
Moreover, I am beginning to suspect that my teaching actually occurs at times other that the traditional C & I hours—by the way I manage the schedule, by the way I prioritize the activities we DO have time for, and in a thousand other subtle words and gestures. Perhaps above all, by my own attitudes about the relationship between teaching and learning—and assessments.