In my daily search of the expanded learning time beat, I came across an op-ed regarding more time in schools that opened with one of my favorite proverbs– ‘All work and no play will make Jack a dull boy.’ But the author argued that this particular proverb emphasized how expanding the school year and/or day would “hinder the young generation from experiencing the perks of life.”
Now this is one of my favorite misconceptions about expanding learning time; the belief that expanding learning time is more of the same. The initial push-back to the whole “more school” argument is understandable – to a degree. A typical conversation when telling someone what I do for a living usually goes like this:
Me: “I work for a coalition that advocates for a longer school year and/or day for students living in areas of concentrated poverty.”
Response: “More school?? Are you crazy?!” or my favorite: “Kids must hate you!”
I’ve worked hard on my elevator pitch and it only takes two crucial points to turn naysayers around. First, people need concrete examples of how a school day looks with an expanded learning time schedule. I emphasize the power expanded learning time has in redesigning how we educate students and utilize our community as well as how more time enables students to get more in-depth individualized support and more engaging classes like dance, robotics, science, and P.E. Secondly, expanded learning time isn’t for everyone. This point is critical. You have to remind people that when school is out at 2pm, not all students have the benefit of piano lessons, Girl Scouts, lacrosse practice or private tutoring. Schools have the unique opportunity to be an equalizer in our society, and by expanding learning time, schools in high-poverty communities are able to provide the range of educational and extracurricular opportunities that are often available in-school or out-of-school for students in higher-income communities. And like that, the Aha! moment happens.
The bottom line is that 21st century careers require both a greater depth of knowledge in specific areas and breadth of general knowledge. Critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity are some of the major skills critical to success in today’s world. It is simply impossible to meet these demands using the same time parameters established decades ago.
I understand that it is not healthy to work all the time and never play (I saw The Shining after all) but I think when it comes to expanded learning time, the ‘all work and no play’ argument is terribly flawed. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, we have to shed our historical ideologies of what school is and shift our paradigms. The time parameters used a 100 years ago made sense for Jack back then, but 21st century Jack will no doubt be a dull boy if we refuse to rethink how we use people and time in our schools. And the more naysayers we can bring to that Aha! moment, the better.