This week’s reading talks about how since the clock has been invented, people, families, institutions- including schools, have been bound by time. I have felt this in my own life, and in my own classroom, and I know others feel this tension as well.
In their chapter, Valuing Subjective Complexities: Disrupting the Tyranny of Time, Sherry Rose and Pam Whitty discuss how student freedom can be felt when their teachers do not strictly adhere to the clock. Even though teachers may pedagogically disagree with stringent teacher led behaviours, their classrooms tend to run strictly by time and schedules:
The schedule and its component parts become taken for granted scripts for organizing time. Passed on from one year to the next, ritualistic routines such as calendar time, snack time, outdoor time, and field trips remain embodied and unchallenged” (Rose & Whitty, 2013).
Not only is our school day run by clocks and bells, the curriculum is actually designed through subject minutes. Each subject is designated by a certain amount of minutes, and some subjects are clearly at the top of the academic hierarchy because they have more minutes imposed. This contrasts Ken Robinson’s creativity TED talk we watch last week:
Thankfully, since the Saskatchewan curriculum has moved to outcomes and indicators, I have noticed that teachers have more freedom with how their day can be organized. (Although I have heard this can change depending on which principal you have.) The principal at my school was pretty relaxed when it came to day/week/year plans. We could schedule our days pretty freely, and the only way our day was bound was to our prep times where other teachers would come and take the kids for Music, Phys Ed, or French.
On the other hand, my friend who works at a different elementary school had very strict timetable checks done by her principal. That principal wanted his teachers to tally how many minutes each subject was getting and total them at the bottom of their weekly plans. Each total had to be in line with the Sk curriculum document subject minutes, and their plans had to be handed in to the office and checked by the principal. Yikes!
I feel like Pre-school/Pre-K has a little more flexibility in how they structure their day than a grade one class, but I am going to share a couple things I do in my grade one class so that I am not as bound by the clock.
- I have a routine run by familiarity not time. Every morning, the very first thing we do is Morning Carpet Time. This title is more for the space we are using rather than the
structure or content of what we are doing. I have a Smartboard file called “Morning Carpet Time” that has around 30 interchangeable slides that I use throughout the year. My students get used to going through about 8 slides every morning. Sometimes I switch the slides up daily, sometimes weekly, and sometimes monthly. They range in subject matter, but I have to admit, they do tend to have a math and literacy focus. When there is a new slide, I teach them what they are supposed to do with it, and then from that day on, the helper of the day leads the class in all the Smartboard activities. This “Morning Carpet Time” does not have a time limit. Whenever we finish the slides is when we move onto our next activity.
- The students have come to learn that the bell does not dismiss them; the teacher does. Though I know young children have a desperate need for Recess, (as they should,) my class has learned that just because the bell goes, does not mean that they get to jump up and run outside… Especially when another class member is talking or sharing. The students have learned that if one of their classmates has the floor (or the teacher), they need to show respect and wait until that person, or that activity is finished. We have ‘worked’ through Recess in the past, and it is not a big deal. I can always take the students outside for a movement break later, or we can do one in the classroom when needed. Please don’t think that I am saying Recess isn’t important. I think it is vitally important. Students NEED to move, and have freedom of play, and be OUTSIDE… all I am saying is that the bell for Recess should not drive our interactions and emerging activities.
- I have mostly changed our visual schedule from subjects to activities. Rather than writing “math” on the visual schedule slip, I write “table activity.” This allows
freedom in navigating the ins and outs of the day. If one activity goes really well, and I would like to continue it rather than moving to the next activity, I can use the next “table activity” time on the schedule to have the students keep working. The students are none the wiser, and I don’t have any ‘schedule loving Sally’s’ who say, “Teacher! Why aren’t we doing Health right now? Aren’t we supposed to be doing Health?” I also don’t have any times in front of each activity. The only thing on the schedule that would give students a sense of what time something is happening would be the Recess and lunch strips.
These are just a few things I have found that work for myself and my classroom. Are there any tricks that you know of that help your classroom not have to follow the clock to the minute? Please share in the comments below!
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