A favorite canard in education is the one about Rip Van Winkle waking up after one hundred years’ sleep and easily recognizing a classroom. It’s probably more accurate to suggest, however, that if old Rip were suddenly jarred awake, it would be due to the noise from a nearby elementary school, with its incessant hum of group work, collaborative learning, and nonstop “turn and talks.”
What our classrooms have lost, writes Diana Senechal in an Education Week essay, is badly needed quiet time for thinking, reading, and problem solving. “It is not at all good to be visibly ‘engaged’ at every moment,” she notes. “One also needs room to collect one’s thoughts and separate oneself from one’s peers.” She wonders why there is so much emphasis on socialization in education and so little on solitude, when both are important to learning?
Solitude should not become a fad; that would make some of us wish we had never brought it up at all. The shift toward solitude should be subtle, not screeching. Don’t abandon group work, but take it down from its altar. Make room for quiet thought and give students something substantial to think about. The children will respond. Also, recognize teaching as a thinking profession. There is no reason for teachers to sit in groups filling out Venn diagrams during professional-development sessions when they could be doing something more interesting on their own.
It’s an excellent point. Now, turn to your neighbor and tell whether you agree or disagree…
Diana is a teacher at a Core Knowledge school in NYC. And if you haven’t been reading her thoughtful guest posts for Joanne Jacobs over the past week, take a look.