Our campus has a Vision committee which I’ve mentioned before, made up of parents, students, administrators and teachers. Yesterday at our meeting, we were discussing the books Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner and Horace’s Compromise by Theodore Sizer, and in discussing the two books together some interesting alchemy came up.
One of our parents delineated the five minds outlined by Gardner: the Respectful Mind, Ethical Mind, Disciplined Mind, Synthesizing Mind, and Creative Mind.
As we started discussing the difficulty with synthesis and creativity if the curriculum is too “content” driven, one of the parents pointed out that how can we expect anyone (including both our teachers and our students) to be creative or synthesize or worry about a discipline when they don’t have the mental room to breathe in many of our rigorous-focused environments. One of the teachers on our committee also talked about as a newer teacher, lack of that time to breathe meant she was more in survival mode her first few years of teaching than anything.
All of which brought up some thoughts for me–
1. How are we supporting new teachers so that they have time to breathe? We expect a lot of them–often new teachers come in with multiple assignments, as floaters from room to room, as part time coaches on the side, etc. Even when providing mentoring, what else could we do to support them better?
2. How are we supporting students so that they have time to breathe, and so they aren’t always rushing from thing to thing, from homework assignment to activity? Could we have a homework/activity free week once in awhile? Could we focus less on “content driven” curriculum where we try to “cover” things, and spend a little more time on one particular thing, delving more deeply into it? As Theodore Sizer comments, ‘can we expect students to learn more while being taught less?’
3. Are we passing our stress onto our students regarding testing? Can we instead focus on passing them confidence, which helps create room for them to breathe?
4. How do our school schedules reinforce this lack of “space” for thought? And what can we do about that?
I wonder what we are saying to our students as future adults about how to live their lives when we foster environments that are driven by constant stress, overwork, overcommitment, and lack of creative time?
As one of the parents on our committee asked, “What do we value? When you walk around our campus, what do we see?”
Look around your campus or classroom today. What do you see?