Time, Time, Time

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The sentiment of many a graduation speech and pop song — it’s cliché because it’s true: Time is all we’ve got.

(If you’ve suddenly started hearing Tom Waits, Pink Floyd clocks, or Cyndi Lauper in your head, I understand. Or, I’m sorry I just did that to you.)

In education, as in life, it feels as if there is never enough time to accomplish all that we hope to do. There are only so many days, so many hours.  This limited time can be aggressively disheartening (like my recent self-loathing about not keeping up with my gym routine) or, if we choose to see it this way, can be energizing and rewarding.

Put Heart-Time on Your Side

The main message, which I believe I first heard from Carmen Fariña the former Deputy Chancellor of New York City Schools, is that we show what we value by how much time we give to things.

I, apparently, value reality TV an awful lot. I’m pausing on that one a second.

I also seem to value writing a great deal and connecting in social media – I spend hours and hours in front of screens. Here is the thing, though, what my heart says I value the most is my family.

Which brings me to my point. It is critical that we look for disconnects between what we value and how much time we spend on it: in our classrooms, schools, and in life. For example, if I reflect, I  see a disconnect between my heart-value for “family time” and my actual-hours-value.

The first step to taking action is recognizing the problem. Seeing this (it’s more than a bit embarrassing, actually), I can make efforts to change it — to align things back with my heart-values. For instance, in recent weeks I’ve made it a point to work later at night, to have more impromptu dance parties with my children, and read together more. It’s still not to the point I want it to be, but I am more aware.  I am trying to align what I give time to, to what I value.

Same goes for our schools. We say we value student independence; but often we are surprised when we look up at the clock and nearly an entire period has flown by and we’ve been talking the whole time.  Or we say we value learning together with colleagues, but a faculty meeting is spent looking up at a screen and listening to one person – instead of learning from one another.  Or we say we value student voices and then are happy to see our walls full of student writing, charting, and art projects. Looking for the heart-value vs. actual-hours-value is not always scary, it’s sometimes reaffirming.  It is important however.

Reflecting on HeartTime in Our Schools

I’m curious what your “heart-time” vs. “actual-hours-time” disconnects are.  And more importantly, what you will do (or are doing) to address them.

Here are some heart vs. actual-hours areas I value and want to think more about as the school year begins, I’d love to hear of others you would add to this list and where you stand:

  • Time for students to practice. Listening to instruction is necessary, but the hands-on time is most important. You learn to do things by doing them.
  • Time for adults to practice: own reading, own writing, our teaching together. Yes, talking “shop,” but also practicing our own literate, mathematical, scientific, historical, artistic lives together. This is making me realize that I need some hands-on math time, for instance, not just being stuck in my “literacy” mind.
  • Time to make mistakes, to value errors, to problem solve.
  • Time for students to talk.
  • Last night’s #engchat twitter discussion (archive here) has me thinking a lot about time for building community – not just at the start of the year, but throughout. Not letting data, scores, objective, get in the way of connecting.

We cannot make more hours in the day. But we can choose to give more time to some things and less to others. Is that easy? Heck no! (I’m finalizing this blog right now as a matter of fact, but the kids are eating next to me… so that kind of counts. Right?) But awareness is that first step.

Now if you excuse me, I have to shut this computer off and go turn on the radio.  A dance party is waiting.

One thought on “Time, Time, Time


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