The Epistle of Q — Chapter 122

Before I give an up-date on the fires…I have a question:

Are we afraid of ourselves…?

Everywhere I am reading these days that the opening of schools across the lad is causing parents and teachers all kinds of grief and anxiety. Why is this? I always thought that teachers (or at least a majority of them) are a fairly bright bunch and are capable of doing many magical things in the classroom. Therefore I am struggling with the notion that instead they may be easily persuaded to stay at home and occasionally become a robo-head on an internet-based screen. Where is the leadership? Where are the dynamic skills that in an earlier age taught me to read, write, converse and listen adroitly? Now I must admit that since then teachers have unionized, but surely that didn’t require them to trade in their brains!

Opening up the schools should have been something that the teachers were out-in-front of as early as last May long-weekend. There should have been a strong research-based call to arms.

Let me explain:
There has been research since the mid-sixties that has demonstrated time and time again that teenagers need to be allowed to sleep in – their rhythm seems off-centre: they stay up late, for many reasons (or excuses) and want not to get up till nearer noon than when the sun breaks over the horizon. And any one who has ever had kids knows that young kids up until their teenage years are up and at it from the crack of dawn.

So why haven’t teachers been sharing this knowledge? We know that universities and their leaders have turtled and meekly followed the path of whoever is the talking head of the day but let’s let put that aside for the moment – besides tuition payers will soon be talking with their fingers and logging in to other spots if colleges keep the doors locked. But public schools are much more compact and therefore more easily changed. Moreover most good teachers know that as soon as they close the classroom door, they are royalty — their room is their castle.

Why haven’t teachers been pushing for primary/elementary students to attend schools starting at 8:00 a.m. in the morning, having a one-hour lunch break at 11:00 a.m. and then attending from noon until 2:00 p.m.?
And the secondary students? They would start at 11:00 a.m., take their lunch break at 2:00 p.m. and then attend until 5:00 p.m.

What are the benefits?
• Let’s start with full-time jobs for the bus drivers as they would be shuttling kids all day. One shift probably 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. the other shift, 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• There would be more classroom space available to reduce class sizes – from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. elementary kids could be using nearby secondary spaces, including labs, gyms, music & art rooms, even home ec & shop facilities for the older kids. In some instances teachers could lead two cohorts with a classroom assistant working with each in a separate room and the teacher moving back and forth — thus helping reduce class size and expanding physical distancing.
• Similarly secondary students would have access to neighbouring elementary facilities thus expanding phys ed, dramatic arts, and other such offerings while simultaneously reducing group sizes through expanded use of cohort models.
• To further reduce elementary class sizes parents who might consider home-schooling, could receive basic training to help the classroom assistants – reading programs in particular could be expanded along with other literacy-related learning – one certified classroom assistant could oversee two or three parental helpers. {Minimum wage payments could provide some reward to these parents.}
• In the secondary programs volunteer parents could be trained to help classroom assistants in running inter-mural sports activities and other club-type events thus ensuring that the number of people in each would meet the physical health requirement while definitely expanding the mental wellness quotient. {Minimum wage payments could provide some reward to these parents.}
• With the staggered hours, proper eating protocols could be maintained through combined usages of cafeterias and designated eating rooms. Unified meal preparation teams could be assembled along with designated custodial groups. Like the bus drivers, the janitorial folk could be divided into at least two full-time teams making sure that every usable space was properly cleaned and maintained throughout the day.

What are the drawbacks?
• administrators would have to actually administer – work on their scheduling skills as well as their management skills viz. making sure all support staff were properly supported, assigned and supervised
• union leaders would have to focus more on the in-classroom product and ensure that teachers were carrying out all their duties in a cheerful and productive fashion in order to encourage students in the learning moment
• teachers would need to consider some live-streaming of their classes in order to give those that do stay at home an opportunity to gain some live instruction

So, maybe it’s time to push for more research-based leadership in education. And let’s start with the public schooling systems. Think of the difference to be made if students were in actual school settings, interacting with their peers, learning to learn in healthy ways, and doing so when their minds and bodies were most in synch with the learning process!!

By the way, this might cost some money — but just maybe the benefits would be so overwhelming that it would not only pay off, but pay forward…