Monday, September 25, 2006

Teaching hours

Whilst I obviously agree with Timmy on his general point that centrist micro-management is a bad thing, I am not sure that he hasn't missed something here. There is a school that has particularly bad attendance rates and that school has decided to pander to its pupils sensibilities by teaching 24/7; the headmistress justifies this experiment thusly:
The idea of a 24/7 timetable is that we look at what is best for the children and their educational needs."

"Some people simply learn better at different times than others, so why should children be forced into a situation where they have to learn between 9am and 3.30pm?

Well, yes, fair enough. Except that one of the reasons is that our traditional working hours—work is what a few of these pupils might actually deign to do when they've left school (always assuming that they can read and write, of course)—are 9 to 5. Yes, one could try to encourage companies to work at other hours, but it's tricky.

When I started working for myself, I tried to set the hours at 10 to 6 since, given my lifestyle, I thought that starting work later would be a good thing. Unfortunately, the problem with working drom home is that it is your telephone that rings and people wanted to get hold of me first thing. Thus, I found myself working from 9 to 6 (actually, most days I found myself working from 9 till 9, but we'll leave that aside for the moment). The point that I am making is that there is an expectation that people work from this time to that time and it can be very difficult to prevent that happening.

Now, Tim does point out that:
Although we could note that many private schools, especially boarding schools, do indeed have very different hours. 9-1 and 4.45 to 7 from distant memory.

At Eton, we had compulsory Chapel every morning at 8.40 (apart from Saturdays, when the lessons started at 8.40am instead) and lessons until 1.30pm. We then had sports until 4, I think, and then lessons from 4.20pm until 6pm (there was a changearound in the summer when the last two lessons happened immediately after lunch, at about 2.30pm and then sports started at 4.30 or so).

However, the point is that these are not "very different hours": the crucial point is that the day started on or before that magic 9am hour. If part of school is to train people for working life—and some part of it must be—then it is pretty important that people get used to turning up at 9am. Otherwise, in most work environments, they will not hold down their job for long (and, let's face it, a great many people leaving comprehensive education in this country do not need another handicap).

Now, one could say that we should be trying to change work practices—as someone who works far better in the evening and nighttime than during the day, I personally would welcome it—but it isn't really practical. And, if we wish to revolutionise, how about we work on changing working hours first and then change the school learning hours?

2 comments:

Mr Eugenides said...

What you say is true, but there was nothing quite so dismal as double physics from 4:40 to 6:05 on a dark Monday evening in November. It was a terrible slog, and I seriously doubt anyone learned anything at all in that environment.

Kids can learn whenever we damn well choose to teach them. It's not up to them when they show up. No human rights for the under-12's!

john prescott's tiny pianist said...

You've hit on an important point here. Schooling is not just for aquiring accademic knowledge. It's also to prepare one for the world outside. I always consider one of the benefits of a good education is the ability to handle mind numbing tedium & boredom. That's what Latin verbs are for.
Let's face it, when you first start work you get all the shit jobs that nobody else want's to do - be it sweeping the factory floor of doing the filing. There's a good reason for that. It gives you a chance to work out where the toilets and canteen are, who's who and most importantly how the place works so you don't wreck it.
So odds on, the first few weeks at work you're gonna spend a lot of your time bored shitless. But that's also the time when your superiors and colleagues are going to make their first and lasting impressions of you. If you can't cut it you've likely done a lot of damage to your future career.

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