I found out that yesterday’s school day was very different from a typical school day. Maybe you’re thinking, “I knew it! No class could be that self-driven and that good for two days in a row.” If those are the thoughts running across your mind, I’m going to squash that feeling of self-satisfaction and triumph right now. They are working together on maths as I type and once again, as I circulated the classroom, they completely ignored me and kept on their work only stopping when I asked them to in order to explain exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it.
No, today is different in what they are learning. And the fact that there’s been no assembly for a school-wide dance competition.
Anyway, apparently MBIS runs on a 6 day schedule from Day 0 – Day 5. On Day 0, students don’t have specials, and instead have school-wide administration assemblies or other school-wide activities. Or, they replace Day 0, as they did yesterday, with Day T–Day Talent.
Before I explain Day T, it’s probably helpful to see what a day of normal curriculum is like. In New Zealand at the intermediate school (aka. middle school) level, teachers each have one class which they instruct in reading, writing, maths, science, IT., visual language (media literacy), health, and PE. They tehn take an additional responsibility for a subject that students rotate outside of their usual class for: a foreign language, Te Reo, creativity & innovation, financial literacy–important skills that often fall outside of the government’s curriculum.
Day T, though, is special. On Day T teachers teach their talents and passions. This ranges from novel writing to holiday baking to beach volleyball to robotics and beyond. The students sign up for their Day T classes at the beginning of the term, and then go about them.
Day T came about from the invitational learning theory as well as the principal’s philosophy that by encouraging people and incorporating their interests into school, teachers and students can come to truly love being at school and feel like it is a place where they thrive. By all accounts the program has been so incredibly successful at building relationships & helping students discover and develop their passions.
While such a day may be condemned as a waste of time and in no way beneficial to the students’ future–after all, don’t extracurriculars do the same thing as Day T and not waste valuable instructional time?–incorporating Day T into the normal class rotation legitimizes the pursuit of these different passions and invigorates teachers and students alike.
I think of Day T as similar to the Gen-Ed requirement in college. Maybe you won’t directly be making pottery in your future profession, but you can take the patience and the ability to look at something in a new way that you learned from the activity and that transcends all fields. Plus, who knows, maybe you discover that while you enjoy chemistry, your true calling is pottery.
In addition to learning new skills and interests, Day T also works to humanize teaching by letting students into the teacher’s life and seeing what they are passionate about and why. Humanizing teaching is an absolutely essential part of connecting and building a rapport with students.
But one of the most interesting applications of the “Day T Theory” as I will call it, actually comes from a different school–the only other one in the area to do something similar to Day T. This school incorporates a “Day T hour” at the end of each day. Once again it is required–students don’t get to leave before Hour T–and it it incorporates interests that fall outside of the typical curriculum. What is different about it–aside from the fact that it is an hour every day as opposed to a complete school day every 6th day–is that some of the older students are able to submit full unit plans as a type of proposal for a course to teach during that hour. Yep. They have taken student as teacher to a whole new level. I think this idea is brilliant because it truly gives students agency within their learning and a sense of ownership of their education. It also shows that school is interested in benefitting them, so if students ever complain that they don’t learn anything important in school, they can be prompted to create and teach a class which teaches their peers something important.
I think Day T / Hour T may be something that I will shape and work to incorporate within my own classroom as a means of letting my students see into more of my interests and also share theirs so we can all be seen as teachers and learners.