This year, we rolled out a 1:1 initiative at all of our middle schools. We distributed 14,000 Chromebooks, one to every middle schooler in the county. As a part of this initiative, we were asked by the Central Office administration to develop a “snow plan” for use with our Chromebooks. The idea is that just because school is out of session, learning should not stop. This is especially true since we have the tools and the technology to allow learning to continue outside of the school walls. But should we? This is a very fine line that we, as educators, walk. Our leadership team, which consists of each department chair and team leader and is representative of the school faculty and staff as a whole, spent a lot of time debating this topic. The conversation was deep and at times contentious.
The two sides of the argument are fairly straight forward. In this day of high stakes standardized testing, where students, teachers and schools themselves are rated on the results of these tests, maximizing instructional time is a priority. But how much of this emphasis on testing and instruction is impeding a 12 year old from being a kid? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to that question. I see both sides of the argument, and believe that both sides have some merit. Hence the fine line we walk.
I do believe that there are skills that need to be practiced to maintain a high level of proficiency, especially reading (which benefits all subjects) and math. But, if I am honest, even now there is a part of me that wants to be out in the snow playing. I believe that the plan we developed as a team strikes a balance between these two sides. We try to allow for some time for a kid to be a kid and still accomplish some type of school work. But again, there is a big part of me that still feels a kid should have some time to be just a kid.
How far do we go? How far have we already gone? I really believe that there is a place for all of this. But how do we balance these two seemingly opposing ideas? As educators, where so we draw the line? Do we want to get to point where the pressure on 11 year olds to perform on a test overwhelms them (an are we already there)? what forms of play do we allow kids? When can we say that some unplanned lay time is actually not wasted time, but necessary for the health of young people? I am not sure I have any answers, a lot of opinions, but no definitive answers.
I think back to some of the great moments I had as a kid and wonder if I could do the same today. I worry about the pressure we are putting on kids these days. I am also acutely aware of the importance of accountability and making sure we are preparing young people for success. But seriously, can’t we do both?