PDF: Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, a few colleagues and I were at an incredibly inspiring panel discussion about education which featured a diverse group of speakers from the Reverend Al Sharpton, Denise Pope, Chester Finn, Kati Haycock, Nick Hanauer, to Tyrone Howard. One thing that struck me was how each said very similar things, but each clearly had their own focus. This post focuses on Denise Pope’s angle.

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University’s School of Education,  stuck to her main issue that schools today do not foster healthy children – both physically and mentally. She is featured in the movie “Race to Nowhere”  and has written the book, Doing School: How We Are Cheating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students.

I’ve only read parts of it, but here are a few things mentioned in the book:

  • homework has no correlation to success at the lower elementary levels
  • kids today don’t get enough sleep
  • they are more concerned about how to get an “A” than what they are learning
  • they are becoming more disengaged
  • they are more stressed and as a result, she concludes, have a higher rate of weight loss due to not eating, drug abuse (usually the use of stimulants), low self-esteem, and so on.

Denise Pope (image from Seattle U's website)

Pope co-founded Challenge Success to redefine what ‘success’ means. She asked us to imagine if our bosses would suddenly give us a test about something school related, had it timed, and then told us the stakes were high. Is that really what happens in our life? Tasks and learning for students should be authentic and relevant. She remains adamant that standards should be high for all students, but that the way we are going about it is unhealthy for all.

She gave us an acronym to remember: P.D.F. (and it’s not a document)
P = Playtime – kids need unstructured play (well-meaning adults structure their lives too much)
D = Downtime – just chilling
F = Family time
Our school has one half-day inservice devoted to community building. Today we enjoyed playtime, downtime and family time. I say family, because my colleagues are indeed like family to me. It was time well-spent.
Here’s an article Pope wrote that’s worth reading.
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2 thoughts on “PDF: Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time

  1. Hi I’m am a school governor at a secondary school (age 11-16) in the UK. I recently fell out with a teacher about homework. She wants to put my son in detention because he won’t do a piece of homework. My arguments against this approach are as follows. I’d really like to know what you all think!

    Threatening to give kids detention if they don’t do homework alienates many kids from learning and school in general.It reinforces the negative feelings and views they have about education. It may work short term with some kids but sullen compliance is not the same as inspired engagement! I concede that in some instances enforcing homework may initiate positive habits which may be useful later on, but for many kids the overall, long term consequence is disengagement. I work very hard to keep my children engaged in learning by encouraging them to focus on positive aspects of school (the boys often say they hate school). I want to encourage a lifelong love of learning, curiosity, independent thinking, autonomy and a questioning attitude. I think if we focus on what our children do take an interest in and continuously reinforce this, they will learn and continue to develop their learning skills. I am not saying this is guaranteed to work but at least it will not switch them off from school and learning altogether which is what we risk doing if we try punish them into doing homework. If a head teacher threatened to detain one of their staff unless they completed a piece of work, we would expect them to be resentful wouldn’t we? Why do some teachers think this will work with a child? And remember, children don’t get paid to go to school, teachers do.

    PLEASE do send me your thoughts on this.

    Harvey Taylor

  2. I think punishing kids with detention because they didn’t do their homework is not an effective consequence. I agree with you that it reduces motivation. First, the homework has to be meaningful, if given at all. Secondly, the reward itself should be learning and being able to participate because of that learning. The consequence should be natural: “You didn’t do your homework (prepare for class with the assigned reading). It’s going to make today’s class a little difficult. Your last sentence is so true. I that teachers are well-meaning when they insist on homework, but I think they don’t always think it through. I’d rather not give homework than give homework that doesn’t motivate a child or punishes one if it isn’t done.

    How meaningful can it to the child? Here’s an example, if you ask a child to play Monopoly with their parents for 30 minutes, it will not seem like work to them. The following math lesson the next day on probability using two dice would not only make sense to them, but they would be able to connect the math lesson to something they’ve done. I wrote an article for Independent Teacher this year about meaningful homework ( http://www.nais.org/publications/itmagazinearticle.cfm?Itemnumber=155183 ).

    Teachers don’t get detentions. Why should kids?

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