I’ve been doing a post-a-day faithfully since January 1, 2010. I skipped yesterday’s post. Instead, I spent from about 8am-3pm writing for one of my own personal BIG projects. And then I went with my family to watch “Alice in Wonderland” at the IMAX theatre in 3-D. (Kind of a disappointment, but visually breathtaking. Maybe Mrs. Wagner is right, and Tim Burton should just stick to set design; he can’t pick scripts.)

ANYWAY…in order to meet a big deadline, things, life, people, have been pushed aside while I focus on this…ONE….BIG….THING….and it does have a hard and fast deadline.

“Deadline” sounds so much more ominous than “due date.” Due date sounds kind of like, well, great if you get it done, but if not, it’s flexible. “Deadline” has the word “dead” in it, as in all life will cease to exist unless this task is completed on this metaphorical line. I keep thinking, “When this is over…I will…(fill in the blank).” The blank is filled in with everything from getting the oven fixed, paying bills on time, going shopping, spending more time with my sons, husband, and friends; spring-cleaning the house and writing the great American novel. (Or, at least a new script for “Alice”- maybe Burton can take a mulligan on that one.)

Sometimes I wonder if we (teachers) are doing you (students) a disservice when it comes to project-based learning.  Project-based learning is when the assignments are layered, building on one another to create one final project, like our Burning Questions unit. You had several steps along the way, and for the most part, you did a really good job. But I’m sure some of your other classes’ work/assignments were pushed aside. Now that you’re done with that, your focus went to other classes. We really are poor at multi-tasking, no matter what we say. But maybe we should embrace this more, recognize it, admit it, and deal with it:  wouldn’t it be great if in all of your classes, Math, Science, Social Studies, your Elective, Language Arts, and PE/Health, what you were learning was all connected at any one time? That’s called “integration.” It’s when your classes all work together to teach the BIG ideas.

For example, if you were studying Ancient Greece in World History, we would do our Greek mythology unit, and you would learn about Ancient Greece’s contributions to Math and Science, and maybe play Olympic style games in PE, and in your art elective, learn about classical art and architecture, and its influences on our own government buildings, including the White House. You would definitely have a deeper understanding of culture and influences over time, wouldn’t you?

Well, that’s just a dream of mine, to really have integrated curriculum, where you apply your learning across many areas. I cringe every time I have tried this and a student says, “This isn’t MATH CLASS!”

It’s not? Then why do I need to know how to read a bank statement, a mortgage loan document, understand my taxes, and be able to read contracts?

Those deadlines and due dates wouldn’t seem so scary if you knew that everything you were learning worked together, would they?

Deadlines and due dates aren’t going to go away. They will be part of your life from now on. When you work, you will have to meet goals in order to keep your job. Even if you’re a barista at Starbucks, they time you from when the order’s taken to the time you call the drink out to the customer. (I know, because I was a barista.) Each drink has specifications – extra foamy non-fat drinks need to weigh this many grams, and need to be at specific temperatures. And yes, there is a supervisor who comes around to all of the stores and checks to make sure you’re meeting quality standards. Thanks a latte.

In any job or career you choose there are standards and levels of quality performance. It may not be funny or fun to think about right now, and you don’t really have to. Dig into your learning now. I wish someone had said to me, “Gee, why don’t you go read a novel instead of cleaning the bathrooms?” but alas, that won’t happen.

Next time you’re grumbling about your free, public education with highly qualified teachers who are pushing you toward meeting and exceeding academic standards, perhaps you will think to yourself this is one deadline you can handle, and you don’t have to clean a toilet.