The flaws within our educational system are being exposed right now on a grand level. We are seeing that a major component of our elementary schooling system revolves only around childcare. If we’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that parents can’t go to work if kids can’t go to school. In trying to keep our buildings open, no matter the constraints and limitations we face, we are trying to provide a place for kids to show up each day. That might be all we are doing each day, providing a place where kids can show up. Ask any educator how school is going, and they can tell you how much “school” is actually happening at school right now.
We are seeing the effects on students each day, in increased emotional outbursts, decreased stamina for learning, and limited growth over time. We are certainly seeing the effect on teachers and educators. Burnout is real.
It’s obvious that we need to slow down. But how?
In a recent New Yorker article titled Slow Productivity, Cal Newport writes about a recent push for a national 32 hour work week compared to the standard 40 hour work week. He argues that while it might be necessary (“a reduced standardized workweek, might prove effective, with the plight of exhausted health-care professionals and teachers standing out as particularly acute examples where immediate relief is needed.”), it might need to be coupled with a decrease in the volume of work assigned. This is certainly true for educators. For years, we have continued to pile on task upon task to the already full plates of teachers and school staff.
But, could a reduced schedule make a difference for teachers who are experiencing burnout at an alarming rate? Would a four-day work week work for students and teachers? It certainly might, but the bigger question is whether it would work for families. A reduced school week could mean more time for much-needed professional development for teachers, and possibly more time for students to take on passion projects or extra support, depending on how the schedule is framed.
I previously wrote about the notion of putting two teachers in each classroom, which will also help to minimize the sheer volume of work that teachers are asked to complete. Maybe it’s time that we re-examine the five day school week as well. Major flaws exist in our current system, and we need to consider that the bends will lead to breaks, until the system is beyond broken. It may already be too late.
How can we slow down? Share your thoughts at #4OCF.