Today, BPS has off for Good Friday. I took the opportunity to go to a yoga class. (I’ve just – just – started. Don’t judge.) I think yoga classes must be the approximate opposite of many public school classes, and certainly of mine most days. As we waited for other students to show up, as we started the class, as we moved through the poses, the teacher kept reminding us that there was “no rush.”
No rush!? Most classes I teach feel if not downright rushed, at least packed full. Will we finish the project in time? Will the students complete the classwork fast enough to have the full discussion? From the moment the bell rings until the end of class I am pushing students to do more. We don’t have time to waste, get to work right away! Finished early? Do this. Now this. You can go to the bathroom, but you’re going to miss out on the example/partner-work time/discussion. Let’s squash this side conversation immediately so we can get back to the math.
In some ways this seems good — we don’t want to waste students’ time. We want to be learning as much as we can. We want extensions for students who finish quickly. We want to expect lots of learning from every student. But in other ways, it feels unnecessary and inhuman. Does anyone benefit from packing every moment full? Do people do better work with time or with pressure? Probably a little of both. But for sure, nothing is actually so urgent about learning math that we should feel stressed, right? It’s not a crisis situation.
So one thing I’m thinking about is what it will look like when we focus less on learning all the topics we “have to learn” and instead focus more on learning, period, whether that be problem-solving, interpersonal, reflective, or social-emotional skills. I am imagining a classroom where not every day has to include a discussion. Where students can come back to the same rich problem several days in a row, deepening their thinking over time, working on the feedback pieces, the group interactions. Where I don’t feel guilty for talking to a student about her new baby sister or his life in Sri Lanka because on some days (many days?) there is no rush.