In the business section of the Washington Post last week, Jena McGregor offered an interesting story on the quest to find the optimal mix for “breaks” to be built-in to the workday in order to maximize productivity for businesses. The results of the research she reviewed offered insights that were both counter-intuitive and intriguing. Interestingly, […]
In the business section of the Washington Post last week, Jena McGregor offered an interesting story on the quest to find the optimal mix for “breaks” to be built-in to the workday in order to maximize productivity for businesses.
The results of the research she reviewed offered insights that were both counter-intuitive and intriguing.
Interestingly, breaks offered in the morning were found more beneficial than those offered in the afternoon. Most remarkably, the researchers, Hunter and Wu, “found little evidence that longer breaks had more positive effects, but their data did indicate the value of taking frequent short breaks throughout the day.” Strangely, that parallels findings on knowledge acquisition; children process knowledge more effectively when furnished with more frequent breaks from instruction.
In recent years, much of the rhetoric around education reform has been devoted to running schools more like businesses with strict accountability for attaining improved achievement as measurable productivity. Considering the increased workload that these reforms have engendered, it may be time to have a discussion about increasing breaks in the school day for educators.
As a career educator in the public schools, these findings inspired maniacal laughter over my morning coffee. The teaching profession is certainly as cognitively demanding and, at times, as emotionally draining as any business enterprise. When I posted the story, a teaching colleague responded, “What’s a break?”
But, teachers have time between classes! No real break exists there, as teachers must supervise the hall and greet the next class.
What about the duty-free lunch? Multi-tasking abounds during lunch, as educators eat while simultaneously grading papers, making phone calls, and/or tutoring students.
Planning time isn’t a break? It is categorically impossible to assemble 250 minutes of exciting, engaging instruction in the 45-50 minutes allotted for planning purposes.
Therefore, any educator aspiring to effectiveness must tolerate the constant pressure of supervising children from the moment of their arrival in the morning until their departure in the afternoon while typically making six-to-ten decisions each minute which inevitably compels early arrival, late departures and grading papers after dinner.
As educators gain experience, they eventually learn to engage children in independent activities for short periods of time during a class. That may look like down time to an “outsider.” However, that time is most frequently built-in to complete the administrative compliance-tasks of teaching.
A teaching day is non-stop, all-day-every-day.
Best practices have been discovered for scheduling breaks in the business world and increases in performance and productivity observed as a consequence. It is long past time to incorporate the practice in schools.
America continues to cope with continual churn in the teaching force as highly qualified educators leave teaching and enter the business world. It just may be that frustrated educators are replaying that old fast food commercial as an incessant earworm: “You deserve a break, today, so get up and get away…”