Clocks…Who Has the Right Time?

At lower school back to school night this year I shared some thoughts on time and clocks. I was recently driving in DC and my car clock was not aligning with my Ironman watch or my cell phone clock for that matter. I was at the light by the Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue. For those of you that do not know, the Naval Observatory is charged with keeping the precise time for the department of defense. While I was stopped at the light I noticed not one of my clocks were aligned with the USNO Master Clock. Click on the link to see how close your watch is aligned with the “precise” time.

This leads me to my reflection on the developmental “clocks” our children maintain each and every day. As a parent and educator I have frequently wanted my children and those in the classroom with me to be on “my clock” or at least all on the “same clock”. It is easy when we are all on the same clock. Shouldn’t they be reading at this level already? Why can’t they take multiple directions? Why are they not able to ride a bike by now? Are we even in the same time zone? These are all thoughts I have had to myself.

I came across the picture below on an educational blog I read. This picture makes it look like all of these kids are on the same clock. The industrial age relied heavily on the fact that the factory was calibrated precisely to mass produce the goods.

The Dream Classroom of the Industrial Age

The Information age is quite different though. It relies on technology, creativity, communication, collaboration, right brain thinking and the list goes on. The classroom today not only recognizes that our clocks are not all aligned, it embraces it with differentiated instruction, pods, group work, layered instruction and technology resources that support and stretch students. Just look at all the companies that were started by people who went to Montessori schools.

I think the developmental clock of the folks that started these companies was just fine with the self paced and guided learning they experienced. Can you see Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brim, or Jimmy Wales in the rows of the classroom picture above? Apple operated on the creative clock of Steve Jobs. His death was a big loss to the world, but he left a tremendous legacy. He created and recreated a company that changed they way we use technology. He also urged people to do what they love for work in a graduation speech at Stanford. A remarkable man who certainly did not model the traditional industrial age education. To quote Frank Sinatra, ” he did it is way”.

What I have come to understand is that the kids will meet all of the appropriate milestones when they are good and ready. Parents and teachers play an integral role, but, in essence, we are on their clock. The sterile rows of yesteryear may appear to have the kids on the same clock, but as a product of those rows myself I can tell you that I was not in the “same place” with those sitting in front of or behind me. It is a nice picture but it also suggests, to me,  that everyone is the same.

Just like the many time devices I have are not all aligned, it is rare that our children’s clocks are all on the same page. Parents and educators must constantly walk the tight rope of treating each child differently, yet the same. It sounds paradoxical, but it is the art of parenting and teaching that is so important in helping our children grow. It allows for children to grow into his or her clock and not the clock of the “factory”. Now I just need to figure out which of my clocks has the right time.

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