Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Maybe Time Isn’t Too Good To Waste #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Maybe Time Isn’t Too Good To Waste #SOL17

 

Each September I experience a mix of emotions … but I have to honestly admit I never have this one:

 

It is not because I am some perfect parent or that my boys embrace the idea of spending time with me in the summer.  Trust me, we have our share of disagreements and annoyances.  While getting back into a routine is nice in many ways, what I love about summer is time slows down.  The calendar is not fully booked and evenings are often open.  Simple things like eating dinner together, playing games, going for a walk, or even having a conversation that is not focused on an item on a “to-do” list happen almost daily in the summer.  Everyone seems to have some time to waste.

Wasting time may not seem like something to cherish, but I love having time to waste.  Summer provides me with time to not be so scheduled; to unplug; and to be less productive.  I find this creates space to think, connect and reflect.  I have more ideas, I laugh more, I sit more, I embrace quiet.

This article on the importance of wasting time shares some research that highlights the physiological and psychological  benefits of allowing oneself some down time.  In fact, they even showed that wasting some time might just help us be more productive in the end:

“There will always be an endless list of chores to complete and work to do, and a culture of relentless productivity tells us to get to it right away and feel terribly guilty about any time wasted. But the truth is, a life spent dutifully responding to emails is a dull one indeed. And “wasted” time is, in fact, highly fulfilling and necessary.”

I know for me taking a break always makes me more productive. It is clearly easier to take breaks when schedules slow down.  It is more challenging to preserve this time when we get overwhelmed and most likely need it the most.  I think a lot about the messages we send young children about productivity, being “on-task”, and what it means to work hard.  Family life and school life both seem to be overscheduled these days.  What are we really teaching our kids?

Professionally, I spend time helping teachers squeeze all the required minutes of content into their daily schedule.  Many teachers are having trouble finding time to read aloud to students not to mention only having fifteen minutes for one daily recess.  Anyone who has taught elementary school knows that fifteen minutes is not enough.  Even transition time between subject areas has been cut in elementary classrooms.  Teachers who need more than a minute to transition students between activities or lessons are identified as needing help with management.  Even high school and middle school students get time to walk, talk and pause between classes.  Why have we taken this time away from our youngest learners?

I wonder if “required time on subject areas” is the wrong way to go.  If we know what we need to get done in a year, shouldn’t we pace ourselves for productivity rather than a timer?  Have we lost sight of the human needs of our students?  Do we recognize that we cannot just tell them to produce they need to be available mentally and physically to learn?  How can we redefine what it means to be meaningfully productive and focus more on quality of learning and less on the quantity of time?  As we begin another year, I hope we plan to waste some time, at home and at school.  Those moments are often the ones we remember – the moments we connect with each other; the moments we laugh; the moments we notice something stunning; the moments we feel empathy; the moments we reflect; and the moments we just look out the window.  Seems to me mindfulness is the upcoming buzz word – rather than scheduling time for new activities to teach our students how to be mindful, we might just be able to waste some time and get the same results.

Clare

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

6 Comments
  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 13:08h, 05 September Reply

    Wow Clare – your post is great food for thought. When my kids were little and in school my goal for each summer was for them to experience boredom. School year was tight and rushed and scheduled. Reading your article made me realize I was ahead of my time in thinking.
    BUT… I must have lost this thinking along the way as I do believe we need to experience some of this during our school day. Your words are challenging me on this first school day in September!
    Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Franmcveigh
    Posted at 14:40h, 05 September Reply

    There’s a need for down time for students and teachers. Maybe spreading out the “down time” like year round schools really is best as the goals seem to be more evenly spaced! Great reason to stop and question
    what we do
    and why.
    Both parts are important!

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 15:34h, 05 September Reply

    I like to think that in summer, time is horizontal — long and slow. During the school year, it’s more vertical — shorter and more cramped for space for all I want to do. School starts today here in Wisconsin. I’m wishing that every teacher could read your words and take a look at how they are spending their time. Maybe then our students would be a little less like the ones in your video and more like the dad.

    Jen

  • Avatar
    Rose
    Posted at 16:22h, 05 September Reply

    Great reminder for everyone, Clare. We all need down time to wonder and dream.
    It is the space where problems are solved.

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 21:41h, 05 September Reply

    Hi Clare! I’ve missed your posts and wisdom, and I kept thinking I’d see you on the beach. I am going to make copies of your last paragraph and keep it with me and on my bulletin board. I love it that much. Sometimes wasting time is exactly what we all need! Thank you for sharing such important ideas!

  • Avatar
    Cathy
    Posted at 10:09h, 08 September Reply

    Clare,
    I love this! As I move into August, I’m always trying to think of ways I can keep that summer mindset as the school year begins. Scheduling time “to waste” is one way to accomplish this.

    Cathy

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