Tie And Jeans

Testing Break The Bell

Break The Bell Recap:

Opportunities to work through challenging problems outside of the regemented schedule make students better prepared for learning, even in traditional environments.

Like most teachers, I have a stable of crackpot ideas about how to restructure school (ASIDE: It’s odd and dispiriting to notice that while most teachers are full of these ideas, students’ rarely develop them without direct prompting. As enamored as I am with my own ideas, I’d far rather develop and implement their’s.)

While blue sky re-imaginings can make a fun Friday night, we often skip over the knotty question of finding a path from here to there. For the record, I check out of any of these conversations the first time someone says “we should open our OWN school.” It’s a bit akward when that person is me.

What I find compelling about Break The Bell is that it looks like a testable hypothesis in almost any environment. Our assertion is that these positive changes in student outlook are products of changes to timing and structure, just as much as the specifc type of activity. For better or worse, most schools are overflowing with structure.

So let’s test! Run something next year on the same model and timeframe as your athletics programs, and see if students respond in similar ways. If mirroring athletics doesn’t work, look for other ways to break out of the schedule: one afternoon a week; recurring drop days; annual J-term. Use whatever window you can make to ask amazing things from your students. Set the stakes low and expectations sky high.

Break The Bell asserts that if students have the time to complete full design-attempt-fail-learn cycles somehwere in the school experience, they’ll become stronger students and more motivated learners everywhere.

Once the experiment is underway, you’ll need to gather some (highly anecdotal  data. Make time for teachers to talk to each other. Look for markers of a student’s changing outlook. Look for changes in midday disposition. Look for any of the signals that a student feels engaged, comfortable in school. Look for increased resilaince across subject areas, look for developing confidince and exapnding creativity. And, yeah, I guess you could look at quiz and test scores.

Like, if you’re really bored.


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