No, not a spitball, I mean spitballing.

(Man, I can’t believe I just linked to Urban Dictionary. There goes my librarian cred.)

When I was working at Hyde last summer, I was given a small job (you know, one that could sit next to my big jobs and get them drinks when they needed it). I was asked to lead a brainstorm to figure out how to do study hall better. I had six people to work with, all other teachers. I knew that if we started with what we usually did and worked from there, we’d be more likely to end up with something that looked like what we had, so I decided to work from the opposite direction. So here’s what I passed on to the team:

“Pair up and grab a sheet of paper. Your job in the next 10 minutes is to come up with as many creative ideas as you can of how we could do study hall. You are only allowed to write down sensible ideas after you run out of ridiculous ones.”

And let me tell you, some of these ideas kept me chuckling for days. The idea of doing study hall on the football field, with the whole school lined up by weight, still cracks me up.

Once we got down to the more sensible ideas, however, they were really interesting. Study hall in the morning rather than the evening. Putting everyone in the dining hall and doing homework during an extended dinner period. Study hall right after (or before) each class period, with the teacher present. These folks came up with some really creative ideas, including the obvious “no study hall.”

That phase of spitballing – being willing to talk seriously about crazy ideas, or even admit that we have them – is too rarely seen. Many institutions are quick to throw out anything truly new. Even more rare is being willing to accept and try out such ideas; sadly, I think study hall ended up more or less as it had in previous years. I’m still glad that we spent time coming up with some bizarre ways to do homework, because it gives me hope that some day someone might actually try them.


About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on February 20, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great idea. I’ll have to steal that sometime.

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