Director's Cut

Emerald Connection, March 6th, 2023

I hope you enjoyed reading about Straight A students over the past few articles.  However, I know that not everyone is that driven.  So, I am starting a series of articles about Straight B students for those of us that are ambitious, but not that focused.  Just kidding!

I did want to write about a related topic, though: efficiency and effectiveness and how these impact learning.  In our world, there is a lot of pressure to be efficient with our time and resources.  This is a good thing as wasted time and resources are lost opportunities.  However, efficiency is not usually the prime goal in what we do; effectiveness is.  Our teachers work hard to make the best use of the time we have with your children in order to be the most effective in developing their present and long-term learning, not to “cover” as much as we can.  Several examples of this come to mind as I reflect on what I’ve seen taking place around school over the past few weeks.

In the middle school, the students have been going slower and deeper in their learning.  One could argue that they could get much more “done” with a different approach, but to what end?  For example, in science, the students often present their learning to each other and at this time in the year they are going deeper into this process by scripting, prepping, and filming their presentations.  Going slow allows them to deepen the understanding of the content and bring in related, engaging, and useful skills at the same time.  The same is true for our annual Shakespearian production.  Plays take a lot of work and time that could be spent otherwise, but the value of going deeper into the text as well as overcoming many different challenges both individually and collectively are worth the time and effort.

In the intermediate grades, our third and fourth grade students spent three days working with Yampatika on snow science last week.  This is a big time commitment, yet well worth it.  Experiencing how snow layers form and their significance is much more powerful (and memorable) when digging a snow pit and examining the layers than when they just read or listen or watch.  I also walked around with a group that was learning about leave no trace principles.  The program director at Yampatika shared with me that last year’s third graders still remember the principles because they took the time to learn them with hand motions, talking about them, coming up with examples, and writing them down.  Effectiveness often requires both getting hands on and taking the time to revisit ideas through multiple means and over time.  This isn’t very efficient, but it is effective.

Our lowest grades are now leading our all school meetings.  Last week, the second grade led their second of three meetings.  While some groups have had scripts, Josh encouraged his students to work without them.  These young students have received effective modeling from their peers and their other school experiences so that they can stand up and lead an entire assembly on their own.  One parent approached me and shared afterwards how much she appreciates the chances for all of our students to speak publicly.  While our school time is short, it is and was worth it for Josh and his students to spend their Project-Based Learning time on an important project: having the confidence and competence to lead an effective and engaging assembly for our school.

There are many ways we could choose to be more efficient at Emerald, but we would lose some of the depth and power that can only be found when we take the time to go slow and get hands on.  Effectiveness is our goal and we will strive for efficiency when it serves us and not worry about it when it does not.

The Connection