Tie And Jeans

Break the Bell – My Working Hypothesis

Break The Bell springs from the experiences of five educators, which yields some muddled boundaries along with amazing depth.

Here’s the hypothesis that’s at the core of my version of Break The Bell:

Extended periods of self-paced authentic work make students better prepared for learning, even in traditional classroom environments.

[youtube http://youtu.be/r0CGhy6cNJE]

Our session opens with a mix of open, minimally structured, creative activities. Everyone chooses which to engage with, how many, and when to call it quits. The individual activities are great, but they’re not the point of Break The Bell. I’ve attended several Educon sessions that eloquently argue for rich media creation, publication and public engagement as central pillars of contemporary school. This isn’t one of those sessions.

For Break The Bell, these activities are fuel for our limited, subjective experiment. In a day crammed full of interesting ideas and powerful conversations, where intellectual/social burnout is a real concern, does an extended break working on something else at your own pace help you? Do you feel better and more focused an hour or two later? If possible, please supply your own clones and alternate timeline for full scientific rigor.

The presentation chunk* will give quick highlights of where we’ve seen confirmation of this hypothesis in our teaching careers. Viewed in isolation, this could look like an argument for the specific activities being discussed, but we’re more focused on the form. I’m nerdy enough that this pains me a bit, but look at school athletics! I’ve argued against the time dedicated to athletics enough to have all the pro arguments memorized. Teamwork. Resilience. Engagement. Moderate, but non-zero, stakes. Moments of inescapable assessment.

I’ll accept all that as true, but what leads to those outcomes?

School Communities Beyond Sports

My Break the Bell hypothesis that way schools present athletics has more to do with creating those outcomes than the conventional wisdom suggests. Is there a lot else that running Cross Country, playing Ice Hockey, and managing the baseball team have in common?

*Minimal presentation! This is Educon, after all.


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