Where do We Draw the Line?

This year we have implemented a 1:1 computer initiative. Every one of my 1363 Timberwolves got a nice new shiny Chromebook in September. There was a lot of trepidation amongst staff members, some bumps in the road and more than a few break throughs. Now, life before Chromebooks seems like a distant memory. But we are still feeling our way through a few things. Like snow days.

Let me give you a little background information. Our Central Office has adopted an “Any Where Any Time” learning philosophy. As a technology advocate, I am fine with that.  Where I think I started to have questions was when were asked to develop lesson plans and activities for students during snow days. Why did I have a problem? Good question. I think this request brought into focus for me the balance question. You know the one. We ask ourselves this question all the time. How can I do my job and maintain a balanced family/personal life? As adults, we get to ask this question. We get to have some inout into the answer. Who asks this question for students? Do they deserve a school/life balance as well? Do they deserve that chance to be a kid? And if the answer is yes (which I think it is), then who is asking it for them? We, as the adults, are asking them to work nights after a full day (homework), weekends (projects and studying) and now we are asking them to take their day off (snow day) and do work.

Now, I can hear the other side of this coin already. “They will fall behind in the curriculum” we say. “They are missing test preparation time”, we say. “Sri Lanka will pass us in international standardized testing”, we say. I know the argument. And here is my counter. I read a book a while back called “The Post-American World” by an author named Fareed Zakaria. In this book he discussed all types of different topics and the future of these topics as the world progresses. On topic was education. The salient point from this chapter was clear. While we may not be able to out perform other countries on STANDARDIZED TESTS (think multiple choice one right answer types of things), the world cannot compete with the United States when it comes to innovation and creativity (think outside the box types of things). Now, don’t get me wrong. There are things about our current educational system that need to be addressed. But we should not put a limit on creativity and innovation to move up on the NAEP list.

Some of the best memories I have from my childhood are snow days. I remember sledding outside until my toes were popsicles. Snowball fights, snow forts, you name it. I think I turned out OK. Some of the best memories from when MY kids where young were made the same way. Hot chocolate, sledding big hills, building jumps, freaking out Mom with the jumps. They are now in college, one earning a masters in Accounting and the other earning two degrees. I think they turned out OK. Are we allowing are kids the chance to make those same types of memories? I think the thing that I worry about most is not just centered on snow days, but more of a bigger picture. Are allowing our kids the chance to just be a kid? Or are we setting a really bad example of how to have a balanced life? I’m not so sure I like the answer.

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
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