Productivity, Time, and Accomplishing the Goal

guest written by Justin Ballou

Earlier this week, I had some time to catch up on current happenings in the business sector while waiting for an appointment to begin. From time to time, I find some really good links between the so-called “Real-World” and the one that is currently the standard for education.

While reading, I came across a great article entitled: Netflix’s Unlimited Employee Vacation Policy: Why It Works and was pretty impressed with what I saw! Looking at major business models, perks to employees, and keeping productivity and responsibility high, Netflix went to UNLIMITED VACATION!

Yes, you read right….UNLIMITED! Meaning….um… limits on the amount of time that one can take “off” from work. As I read the article, it became apparent that with strong guidelines and staff responsibility, Netflix, (along with some other companies that are pushing the limits on workplace expectations) are taking more of a cavalier approach to how the employees are responsible for their actions.

I got to thinking about this, and as an effective practice, it makes sense! Give your employees freedom and the ability to be motivated and self-directed, and they will get the job done. Heck, with an unlimited vacation policy, I would imagine with the personal responsibility factor that some employees continue to work, (albeit in short spans) while on vacation to make sure they are pulling their own weight.

So, the question is…..why not the classroom? Why do we force kids, (especially at the high school level) to sit in a classroom, at a desk for ninety minutes at a time, moving from class to class and calling that education? What would happen if we, as educators said, “Here is the expectation…..I will be here to assist you in this if needed…” and then allowed for students to rise to the level of expectation, personal responsibility, or rigor?

Some states, (New Hampshire for example) has done away with seat time and moved to a competency based model. Students prove proficiency in their education and can, within reason, pace their education according to strengths and weaknesses. And, in this transition, we have seen some good, bad, and ugly results.

For the positives, it can be clean cut and a high motivator for students. When they are responsible for their own education and have a “choice and voice” in what they do, more often than not, there is authentic learning that occurs; both structured and implied lessons alike, as failure can be just as strong if not a stronger influence on education than success.

We do see some issues emerge as well. One is that there is ALWAYS a learning curve to any action. It is part of human nature to want to manipulate and our environment for gain, and students are no different. What we found is that with teacher consensus, organization, and careful implementation, the change can alleviate some of the transitional pain if the bar is set and understood.

As for the “ugly,” there may be instances where the old system is so ingrained into the community that the scrapping of seat time is seen as a “dumbing down” of education… which then, in turn, can be used against the teachers. Also, with terms/semesters/quarters still the “go-to” for assessment practices, what do we do with those that complete the work in half the time? How about a quarter? Theoretically, we could have 30 different students in 30 different locations….a NIGHTMARE for any educator.

Either way, if planned out and supported….we may be onto something that can benefit students. What are your thoughts on possible successes and pitfalls?


About the author: Justin Ballou is a high-school Social Studies teacher in New Hampshire. Besides teaching, he is active running an education startup called EduTech and enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife. With edtech and authentic learning as his go-to topics, you can reach him at to ask questions or leave comments and follow him on twitter (@nhjbteach).

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