The purpose of this blog is to catalog actual time-wasting activities in public schools — assignments, group projects, and the like. All stories are true, to the best of my knowledge.

We often hear complaints that due to accountability and testing, teachers will just end up prepping for reading and math tests to the exclusion of everything else. But schools still find ways to waste time on activities whose purpose is more entertainment than educational. Indeed, perhaps it would be a good thing if more of these “creative” activities could be thwarted by the pressure of test-based accountability.


6 Responses to About

  1. Neil Mercer says:

    Do you work in education or have any background in education? It’s not a leading question, I’m just interesting in your blog and would like to know.

  2. I do not work in education. That said, I have a graduate degree in education, and have children in the U.S. public school system. Most importantly, I possess at least a smattering of common sense.

    • Captain Easychord says:

      Did your degree involve teaching practice in schools for any length of time?

      I ask because teaching is a complex mix of educating, motivating, managing behaviour and trying to reach a wide range of pupils and it’s difficult to appreciate how complex it can be until you’ve done it for an extended period of time with a class of pupils. 20+ hours a week of teaching, 40 weeks a year.

      I think some of the examples you pick out may be valid, but I would not want to judge a particular teacher’s approach unless I could see the context – how a particular piece of work fitted into a longer scheme of work, the nature of the pupils the teacher was dealing with, exactly how the work was introduced and delivered etc. All of these things are essential. It’s very easy to take isolated examples of classroom practice, as you do in your blog, and comment on them.

      Good education is not simply imparting knowledge. It also involves creativity, exploration and (heaven forbid! ) enjoyment. Sometimes an experimental, off the wall activity might be a complete failure. It might also be the lesson that changes a child’s life by completely inspiring them. I’m sure we all have good lessons that we remember as children, and they are usually the ones where the teacher took a completely new approach,where maybe they ignored common sense for a while.

      Unfortunately I see your blog as almost entirely negative. It’s simply criticism with no actual suggestions or anything positive to add.

    • Yes, it’s a very focused blog; hence the name. I can see why the blog’s focus might come across as negative, but there are hundreds if not thousands of other websites offering positive advice on what sort of pedagogy to use, etc. I’m aiming at a very particular niche: time-wasting school activities that don’t seem to have much, if any, academic content.

      It’s theoretically possible that constructing yet another poster or Powerpoint presentation might be the one thing that catches a student’s imagination and turns him/her onto education for life, but that surely has to be weighed against the students who find such activities a turn-off.

      • Captain Easychord says:

        I can see your point about posters and PowerPoint presentations. As I teacher myself, a poster is a fallback position that I use guiltily on occasion out of desperation. When I reach the end of term, have hours of marking, am being asked by SMT to provide loads of data that I need to collate, all my other time is being taken up by after school clubs etc, and I’m sat at 11.30pm wondering what activity I can use the next day that will keep my pupils engaged, who have a massive range of abilities from barely being able to write to having very strong literacy skills. Then, “make a poster” seems very attractive because I know it’s an activity that requires little preparation, is accessible and enjoyable by all students, and will get them all writing. As a teacher, you inevitability end up overusing certain activities that you know work and suit tou

      • Captain Easychord says:

        Whoops! I was saying…
        activities that you know work and suit your teaching style.

        Some of the things you’ve been picking up recently though don’t fit into this category however. Graphic novels, for example, are a perfectly valid resource if handled correctly. The use of Mr Men in a lesson on Nazi Germany could be perfectly valid and useful if handled in the right way and in the right context. Group research projects (even if they are presenting their results on a large display) can be a great way of helping pupils develop team work, independent working and speaking & listening skills. Again, IF handled correctly, it’s all about the skill of the teacher in delivering it.

        Teachers are (in the UK at least) under constant pressures to teach in certain ways from lots of different directions (SMT, Ofsted, government, the media etc). What many of these people offering advice, criticism or instruction fail to remember is that the teacher who is in the classroom and knows the pupils well, the subject well, and their own teaching style well, is actually usually best placed to make a decision about how to tackle a particular area of study.

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