In my virtual interactions with students, I always ask them how much time they are spending on remote learning. Their answers range between “5 hours” and “There’s remote learning Dr. Gately?”
Based on this unscientific research, I’m going to settle on 3 1/2 hours as the amount of time the typical kid at my school is spending each day on virtual school work.
I’ve been doing the math. Factoring in extra help, clubs and sports, our school day runs from 7:30 AM until 3:30 PM. That’s eight solid hours. So, if the typical student at our middle school is doing 3 1/2 hours of virtual school work, what the heck are they doing during the other 4 1/2 hours when they are inside our school building? Even if I add up the four minutes we give kids to pass between classes, 36 minutes, I’m left to account for almost four hours.
I find myself musing about my own routines during that time (most often 10 hours in my case). Now I’m working from home, constantly working from home. My daily tasks no longer include visits to classrooms, joining students in the cafeteria during lunch, supervising kids in hallways, and many, many meetings. I miss those. Meetings that take place via video aren’t the same. They lack the entertaining, inconsequential tangents that make these gatherings as much an opportunity for relationship building as they are about planning and problem-solving. Helene Kriegstein, our curriculum associate for math, one of the funniest people I know, once said something hysterical at a meeting that caused me to literally fall off my chair and roll around laughing on the floor. In other words, I literally ROFL’ed. Absent face-to-face contact, somehow these conversational peregrinations aren’t as engaging.
Kids and parents are discovering the long-held secret of middle school, it’s 3 1/2 hours of schoolwork surrounded by four hours of other fun and important stuff. The bulk of that time is constituted of vital relationship building and social-emotional development activities. If academic “work” is the bricks of the school, then developmental activities are the mortar supporting them, one cannot exist without the other (in unprecedented times we resort to clunky metaphors, sorry). 🙂
Remote school has me thinking a great deal about time. When we have cast off “the new temporary” (thank you to Jay Posick for that expression) I believe we will have a renewed appreciation for both the bricks and the mortar of our school experience, and the time we devote to each.