Get Time Right; Don’t Settle for “Vanilla+”

Every school serious about change will struggle with the use of time. After our people, time is our most precious resource. Reimagining the use of time is one of the most impactful discussions your school will EVER have. Get it right and all sorts of innovation are possible. Make a few modest tweaks and almost all real innovation is dead on arrival.

Our use of time is one of the four sides of the rigid, out dated box of industrial-age learning:

  • Time
  • Space
  • Subject
  • Teacher-student relationship

Schools that want to break the traditional mold inevitably, and often very quickly, decide that they have to re-think the use of time at school each day. The traditional daily schedule of 50 or 55 minute classes is clearly antithetical to what we know about great learning in a modern sense.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.51.36 AMHere is the immediate problem: time is a resource, and we should NEVER design a solution around a resource.  Good design starts with how we want to change the school (or world) and ends with how to align our resources to accomplish our vision.  Of course good schedule consultants do just that; they ask the teachers what they want the new schedule to accomplish, and then they recommend a schedule aligned to those goals. But if that process works, why do so many schools end up with what I call a “Vanilla+” daily schedule?  Why, out of all of the possible ways to use time during a day, driven by the rich dreams of a true future-leaning vision of learning, do most schools end up with modest tweaks and not dramatic new landscapes in which they can play?

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 10.18.54 AMBecause we start the discussion about time, and most of your adults are horribly fearful of losing it.  Unless your community has truly committed to exploring elegant, perhaps even dramatic options, before long that fear has taken over and you start to compromise.  Your community defaults to a solution that scares the least people, rather than one that might leap towards your hopes and dreams.  You settle, because it is easier and more comfortable than the alternative.

Use the logic model. Design before you build. Commit to great learning, whatever that means, and commit to use your resources, time included, to support great learning. Make that commitment a non-negotiable, and THEN start to look at options for a daily schedule. Don’t settle for “Vanilla+” if what you really want is something vastly more wonderful!

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