One of the frustrating limits of many middle schools is the forty minute chunks of time you have to make magic happen. Suddenly it becomes very apparent how little real classroom interaction matters in the grand scheme of things, or so it seems to appear given this limiting factor. Forty minutes is specifically suited for one thing: quick mini-lessons featuring teacher directed instruction about a teacher directed topic. It’s not that students can’t interact with one another, but it happens in such quick bursts and has to be so closely monitored that I’d imagine that even the students realize how inappropriate it is to suddenly bring up a burning question or complex problem not on the agenda.
In some sort of worldly context, I can’t picture adults accomplishing anything worthwhile in forty minute blocks of time either. Can you imagine a meetings being cut short mid-sentence with “oh, the bell’s going to ring in two minutes…” (Too bad too, we were actually getting somewhere today. Hope we can continue this twenty four hours from now on something completely different, but possibly related in ways you won’t necessarily know or recognize.) This is not to say that there aren’t scheduling conflicts in the real world, or that meetings that last two hours accomplish more because I’m aware that sometimes the opposite is true.
It’s just another mixed message, to add to the variety of mixed messages that middle school students receive on a daily basis.