The Crime of Stealing Time: Stifling Student Agency | Niki Conraths | 4 Min Read

June 28. 2022

Time is money.

Time is luxury or luxury is time.

As babies, time is our own; we dictate the rules: We decide when we want to sleep, when we want to eat, and the entire world rotates around our time sensitivity. Then education begins. With it comes the expectation of when to sleep and what to eat guided by the parental influence that decides what is good for us.

Many years of psychology research show that agency is good for learning and choice gives us agency. In independent schools, the agency has gone. The element of choice is almost nonexistent and has to be fought for, tooth and nail, on an administrative level. The curriculum is like a brick wall: Impenetrable. The criminalization of time in independent schools also comes with a culture of lack of trust and problematic financial structures. We are competing against each other and putting enrichment or scheduled time at the center of the competitive edge. When parents look at independent schools, they demand to know the structure of time. Scheduled time is what they equate to value.

Even in the arts when I was growing up, dancing three hours per day was…

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Nicola Conraths

Nicola Conraths has worked in independent schools for 15 years, serving as Director of Artistic Studies at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and as director of Comparative Arts and dance instructor at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Nicola merges her many interests into projects that connect unlikely topics, people, and places. Recently she has worked with New England Conservatory Prep School, Boston Ballet, YOLA/LA Phil, and SMOC/Headstart schools. Her newest venture, Das Surrealistische Büro, is a consulting capsule for tangential thinking. She lives in Detroit.