Monday, December 21, 2009

Pre-Vacation Videos

I just read an email from a high school principal who each Monday sends his staff a preview of the week.  He politely asked teachers to limit the use of videotapes and remind students they are looking for three normal school days.  Last week a friend complained to me that her third grader watched The Santa Clause 2 in school.  I recall when my daughters were in elementary school, parents complained in the parking lot about this same practice.  Some wrote a letter to the principal saying that if we wanted our children to watch movies, we would have kept them home.

Some argue that our educational system is at a disadvantage over other countries in the number of hours our students spend in school.  There is a thought-provoking documentary that compares how teenagers in the United States, India, and China spend the 2 million minutes of their high school careers. Between summers off, holidays, winter and spring recesses, and a relatively short school day, there is just not enough "time on task."  We can debate that issue.  Those on the other side could argue that learning requires breathing space. What seems inarguable is that while in school students should be engaged in academic work. 

Clearly we are not talking about educational videos or movies being watched to teach media literacy.  We are talking about "fillers"--using a movie to avoid teaching at times when it is most challenging to teach.  The week before the winter break, the Friday after a Thursday off, the two and half days before Thanksgiving, June after final exams.  This practice (like having summers off) is one that gives teachers a bad rap as professionals. That principals need to send reminders and that parents complain should prompt those who teach to do a little introspection before they pop in Frosty.  While we are at it, instead of our managers and clients having to call us on this, let's clean up this worst practice as colleagues to one another.

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