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One Inviolate Hour?

What if every teacher in the United States had one inviolate hour every workday for:  professional reading/being in a group blog/reflecting with other folks on issues of professional importance or personal wondering/attending unconferences or online seminars/edchating/thinking about students?

How would that change the profession?  How might that affect the rate of change?

What if we just demanded it?

If that were so, we would be becoming like a real profession.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

What happens when you are busy all the time?  See Rules 6, 8, and 9.

We become broader, deeper, and more powerful in our work through reflection.  If we are busy all the time, we are easier to tame.    One hour.  What if we just demanded it?

What if we just demanded it?

About Kirsten Olson

I'm writer and educational activist. I work in public, charter, private, unschools. I'm here for the learning revolution.


17 thoughts on “One Inviolate Hour?

  1. Kirsten,

    This is something I have thought about since learning about Google’s 20% rule. The rule is that 20% of an employees time is available for them to dedicate to their passion, their daydreams, their visions.

    Just as you propose, imagine what this would do to learning, to the profession. I think we should demand it-for ourselves and students.

    Posted by Adam Burk | August 27, 2010, 5:52 pm
  2. I’ve been slowly shifting toward the twenty percent concept. The biggest barrier right now is what the administrators will think.

    Posted by johntspencer | August 28, 2010, 8:34 am
    • Hey John,

      Show them “data” that it will work 😉

      Posted by dloitz | August 28, 2010, 12:25 pm
    • John, how big a barrier is what the administrators will think? What do they think now?

      I sometimes get very apprehensive of what I think the administration will think.

      Once the skills and connections students’ learn during Google Time trickle down to improve the quality of their work with the curriculum, administrators should be pleased.

      Best wishes for a speedy implementation –

      Posted by Chad Sansing | August 28, 2010, 2:44 pm
      • Right now the principal is on board and so is the assistant principal. The Language Acquisition Specialist seems a little more apprehensive. When I taught reading intervention, I ran into the same thing.

        Eventually the “data” will end up winning them over.

        Posted by johntspencer | August 28, 2010, 7:37 pm
  3. Yes, what if we just demanded it? Took the time, because we’re worth it?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | August 28, 2010, 2:49 pm
  4. i’m in.

    i’d even be in for a siesta. we have the hours of the day so totally messed up. no wonder simple solutions are invisible.

    Posted by monika hardy | August 28, 2010, 8:44 pm
  5. Tolstoy used to teach reading and lessons at night. He noted that children were more focused and their body had slowed down to the point their minds could let everything in!

    Not sure why school is how it is and believe we really should start for the ground up and rebuilt it. Love to have a chance to try it….


    Posted by dloitz | August 28, 2010, 11:55 pm
  6. I’d like to see public schools implement shifts for a variety of reasons, including differentiating to kids’ body clocks. Do we need separate elementary and secondary schools if we streamline the school day, follow kids’ learning instead of our notions of efficient schedules, and use the same building for different age groups at different times during the day? Imagine the kind of K12 spiraling, community, and care a staff could provide if teachers literally handed off classrooms, kids, and insights daily? What if self-directed learning, electives, service time, or expert mentors covered an hour a day of learning time so all of a kid’s teachers could meet regularly to support her? Or what if busses made three trips (not four or more) and dropped off elementary kids while they picked up secondary ones during teacher meeting time? Imagine how many more community experts could volunteer with secondary students after normal school hours. What if parents seeking GEDs could attend school alongside their teens during the afternoon and/or evening? What would that do for parent engagement?

    Apprentice high school juniors and seniors to day care centers during the day and offer them certification and an early associates degree in child development for baby-sitting middle-school tweens whose parents can’t watch them during the day. Let the juniors and seniors take the middle-schoolers on walking field-trips to do service, create public art, or undertake citizen-science. Or let the tweens pick which part of the school day to attend. Invite secondary student struggling with academics come in early to tutor elementary students on the basics to practice their own fluency and feel some agency over their studies.

    Differentiating by time would unblock so many of the arbitrary barriers we place on ourselves and students. It would create new opportunities and avenues for community and career-readiness. It could save facilities and transportation costs, and free up some school buildings to be leased out during the business day for income for a division and/or crate space for niche charters and specialty centers to help a division expand its portfolio of instructional offerings.

    Why isn’t this happening? I would love to find a quiet spot in an elementary school during the morning to write on my own and soak up the elementary school vibe before meeting with my colleagues and teaching from 3:00 – 9:00 or so.

    Bring it (you know, before there are no more teachers),

    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 29, 2010, 10:52 am
  7. Chad, on your way to work, you can have one of my comfy chairs for your writing. 🙂 My kids would love it! Maybe you could even help with our Mastery Extension time, engaging perhaps two or three of our common kids and then you could give a couple of YOUR kids a ride to school!

    Posted by Paula White | August 29, 2010, 11:22 pm
  8. Goddammit! I’ve been out gigging and missing all these awesome conversations. Where I’ve been: working with groups of educators at three comprehensive high schools–educators, all in various states of reform, reconstitution, disintegration. There is so much more to write here, but a couple of take aways related to this post. Almost no one I was working with had time for professional learning: not reading, not blogging, not thinking. Almost no one had Twitter accounts. No one knew about online conversations about their dilemmas, or finding colleagues who are doing things differently. Many are incredibly disheartened about not making AYP. Again. Most of all, the sense of disconnection between how young adults 14-18 actually learn things, and those buildings and those adult environments, was so huge as to be overwhelming. I kept thinking, why do we do this to kids? Ask them to come into these buildings and subject them to these experiences (re Chad’s post). And Monika’s. The day is so screwed up right now, why not just take the time?

    David, you and I smile together when we talk about taking the whole thing apart. Paula, we all want one of your comfy chairs for writing.

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | September 2, 2010, 11:13 am
  9. How do we reach the people who don’t know there are spaces and community to help them grow as teachers, how do reach teachers who don’t know they can change. It is not just about reaching the people that are already fighting for change….it is about reaching the people who don’t even know there are more then one way to do it, teachers who were never told or allowed or given the time to challenge what they were taught. How can we plants seeds of change for others?

    Posted by dloitz | September 5, 2010, 2:33 pm
  10. Hi Kristen and Friends,

    Nice to find you on another website, Kristen – (we have to stop meeting like this!)

    My take: Of course, it would be delightful to give educators a spare hour of time without kids. My fear is that first, it could only possibly come at the expense of salary, other prep time, benefits, etc – there just is no funding as far as I can tell. Second, I fear that a drop-everything-and-contemplate approach simply won’t work for many teachers. They (we) will inevitably use those valuable minutes to run a set of copies, finish scoring the latest writing samples, update the homework link on the website, kvetch to colleagues in the faculty lounge, grab one more cup of coffee, and MAYBE go to the bathroom.

    I think a better tack might be to begin to nurture a culture of more mindful practice. Is it possible to teach mindfully? With greater presence? Is it possible to build in moments for contemplative practice within our classes. Dare we teach some of these skills as an integral and integrated part of our teaching. Could classrooms become places for existential questioning? Can we lose our fear of silence? How might the educational environment become more spacious.

    Here’s a link to a wonderful piece by Tobin Hart you might enjoy on the incredible benefits of nurturing the learner’s capacity for interiority:

    That said, if anyone presents me with a contract with an hour a day for contemplation time, I’m signing!

    Take Care,


    Posted by Paul Freedman | September 15, 2010, 11:29 pm
  11. Paul, Awesome to have you here and to welcome your reflecting and beautiful mind. (Paul is the founder and director of The Salmonberry School, a holistic, mind and heart elementary school on Orcas Island in Washington.

    Your idea about teaching mindfully, and cultivating interiority and presence as a valued quality in teacher’s work, seems very powerful to me. And as you point out vividly, absolutely in contrast to the working conditions of most teachers’ days.

    Should it be up to individual teachers to cultivate interiority? Or is this something principals and districts should foster and reward?

    Thank you for being here and I hope you’ll guest post for us?


    Posted by Kirsten Olson | September 16, 2010, 8:59 am


  1. Pingback: What Do We Often Forget? « Cooperative Catalyst - October 10, 2010

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