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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Developing Talent or Wasting Time in Schools?

Students spend hours studying reading, math, science, and social studies. When they get to high school, they study geometry, physics, trigonometry. While I believe there's value in all subjects and disciplines, I do question our use of time in classrooms when it comes to curriculum and the preparation of productive members of society.

In other words, are we wasting time?

Is there another way to prepare young people to be successful?

I base these questions on the idea that people have specific innate abilities and talents, which if developed, allow them to contribute to society, and, hopefully enjoy a fulfilling career. The person who has a mechanical mind, has a knack for figuring out how things work, an affinity for building and designing objects, might find themselves drawn to engineering, automotive design, architecture and the like. Those with a gift for communicating (writing, speaking, teaching) might find their niche in the classroom, in academia, or corporate training. You get the idea.

And if you buy into the concept of the 10,000-hour rule, posited by psychologist Anders Ericsson and made popular by writer Malcolm Gladwell, which basically says that someone has to put in no less than 10,000 hours to become an expert in some area, then we have to reexamine our current use of time in schools.

We need to question how much time schools offer students to develop their talent areas. What sort of opportunities do they have during the school day to explore possible talents -to discover them in the first place-then practice these talents in a supportive, nurturing environment. Also, why wait until students enter high school or college to start this process? If talent requires much time to develop, doesn't it make sense to begin this journey at once --when children first enter classrooms?

Recently, I observed and participated in a school's "club time," where every nine-weeks students get to select to attend various clubs, such as cooking, technology, gaming, and cheerleading.  The teachers host clubs based on their own talents and interests--then students get a chance to explore these interests.  The club time occurs the last hour of the day.  While it involves additional logistics and preparation by teachers, what a wonderful way to help provide students with talent development opportunities while balancing academic time.

Perhaps we could find additional time for such programs and clubs by spending less time on testing and preparing for state assessments? Why not curb the testing obsession and become more obsessed, at least more interested, in helping students find their talents and develop them to ensure they can make an honorable, satisfying living. What are we waiting for?

Would love to know your thoughts...

Wishing you the best,

Steve