I always turn to you when pondering conundrums, and today is no exception. I am reading prodigiously for graduate school and one article, “Philosophy of Education Before the Twentieth Century” has me wondering about the importance of timing.
You know how important timing has been in my personal life. Ave and I went to the same college and lived in the same dorm; although our paths may have crossed daily in 1975, we didn’t meet until 25 years later. Everyone’s life has such examples of perfect timing and, alternatively, missed opportunities.
What about timing in education? What makes a child ready to learn? To take advantage of – or miss opportunities? Why are some students sponges and others brick walls?
In the article, it’s clear that many philosophers and educators believe timing is important. Rousseau thought children are ready to learn at certain times and that teachers should take advantage of those “windows”. Montessori believed, more dramatically, that if you miss those “critical periods,” the opportunity is lost forever. Piaget outlined four stages of development and Vygotsky addressed the development of a child’s language, particularly inner language, and its importance to play and social interactions.
They all discuss timing in terms of cognitive development, which is crucial. But timing is also important in pacing, class length, and even starting time.
Pacing and tempo are fine arts that I am still trying to master. I teach slowly and methodically when going over new material, more quickly when reviewing. But being clued in to student’s attention span, mood, and frame of mind often require me to pick up the pace, modulate my voice, or “tap dance” spontaneously in some other way.
Class length is also important. Forty-five minutes may be too long for a kindergartener, but not long enough for a chemistry lab. I’m also convinced that teenagers would learn better at noon than 7 a.m. And is there anything more pointless than trying to teach the last class before a vacation? I guess I’ve answered my own question. Timing is crucial in many different ways!!