Most of the kids in the eleventh-grade class I teach come in with serious knowledge deficits. For example, on the first test I give of the year, I check to see who knows and who doesn’t know their basic facts of multiplication (for example, 12 x 12). And without fail, every year there are between two to three kids who just don’t know the answer.
There’s a reason for this, it turns out. As long as they went to the last math class, passed the material taught according to the teacher’s grading, and were there for the proper number of hours, the students get credit. It doesn’t matter how much of the material the instructor taught! This system is based around the Carnegie Unit, a time-based reference used in education that measures the amount of time you’re in front of the instructor. Many of my students walk into the classroom not having the knowledge they need to succeed, which seems just insane to me. (Do not start dissing on teachers. That’s hardly the point here.)
To put it in as an analogy, let’s say the students were supposed to learn the letters A though Z in the year. If the teacher only gets to X, the students still move ahead. The next year, they might only make it to T. The next, only P. A few years of this, and it is almost impossible to catch up. So, some of my students start Algebra 2 not knowing some of the basics of the multiplication table.
This is also why so many students who go to community colleges or other colleges start needing remedial classes. They sat through the class in high school, but they didn’t actually finish the course by anything except the measure of time.
Years ago, I asked my administrators the opposite of this because I found I would finish what I was mandated to teach ahead of schedule. I asked, “When we are done, can I just then teach the stuff I want?” In one school, I was told that as so long as it was after the state testing I could do anything I wanted in the classroom. In another, I was told no, I should move into teaching the students the mathematics subject for the next year.
My solution in my classroom became to incorporate wisdom biscuits and alternative lessons during class time – and I end my class in June just like everyone else.
I have found that my life is often like that of my students – the task is never done!
As soon as I finish a task, I find another one in front of me. And, then another, and another.
I find that the “free” time that I assumed I would get for completing a task early gets converted into more work time. Vacuum cleaners and other modern time-saving devices promised free time to be had. But, that time didn’t come.
It’s a corollary to Parkinson’s law which states that a task will expand to fill the amount of time allotted to it. Free time gets filled up with more “to-do’s.”
The only way you and I are going to get time off is by consciously, and at times arduously, making it.
This week’s #wisdom_biscuit:
Schedule at least 15 minutes of not doing, non-productive time.