This week was testing week in the state of Ohio, as the Ohio Graduation Tests were given to the sophomores. This makes for an interesting schedule at our high school, where we only see our students three of the five days for class, and one of those days it's only for thirty minutes. The general consensus among the faculty is that while they don't necessarily have a better idea, the week is essentially lost due to not seeing the kids every day, and that thirty minutes isn't really enough time to accomplish anything meaningful.
Then, there is my classroom, where life continued as normal. On the days I saw them, the kids came in, started going through the exercises on their own, had solid discussions about the material, got through about six or seven problems...a normal day. The only difference with the thirty minute bell was the number of exercises, but the rest of the day looked the same. Honestly, you would never have known that the schedule for the week was as abnormal as it was, that's how normal things were in my classroom.
Do I understand the frustration of the other teachers who see thirty minutes as not enough time to check homework and deliver a lecture? Yes. Do I understand that having class every other day can make it difficult for the kids to remember what they were doing, or what they did for homework, or if they even had homework? In a memorize and mimic classroom, yes...yes I do. But this week I saw one of the in expected benefits of Harkness: the inconsistency of the week and the shortened bell didn't throw the kids off at all. They knew exactly where they had left the discussion the last time they were in class, came to class prepared, and left for the day having actually accomplished something. Once the kids buy into the system, there is no such thing as a wasted day in a Harkness classroom. There is always time to get a little further, do a little work, at least begin the discussion of a problem...there is far less wasted time.
Because of the testing schedule, it became clear to me this week that my kids have bought into Harkness, and have truly taken control of their own learning. So how was OGT week? It was great for me...nice and normal.