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Welcome to Laurie's section of Speaking from the Heart.  Most of my writing will be to you, my fellow teachers, but it is often for me because I need to bring my thoughts and feelings about a topic together.   I would love to hear your feedback.

Time and the Teacher or Time vs. Teaching

"Time is the Enemy."  I think that this phrase pretty much sums up modern American society!   I know that it sums up much of my daily life.  My school day is no different. 

How many times a day does one of these questions/statements cross your mind? (or your lips?!):  There isn't enough time.  That takes too much time.  I don't have time.  How much time will that take? How much time do we have?  Time is limited.  Time yourself.  Watch your time. 

How few times can you (and your students) "take your time."? 

"Time is of the essence."    In our "instant gratification" world, we have stopped honoring how much power time can wield.  I am old to believe that the important changes wrought by time cannot be replaced by shortcuts.  Time allows for growth, for development, for nourishment, for reflection, for contemplation, for absorption, for ripening, for permeation.  If change is to take place, there must be time for it to occur. 

People are living things.  Our minds and bodies are organic entities.  We are created to grow and to change.  Our students change physically right in front of us!!  A freshman boy who looks up at me in September, is looking down at me by January.  But that growth will happen in it's own time!!!  The basketball coach is not expected to make his best shooter grow a foot in the first week of practice so that he will be be a basketball star.  He has no control over that!  He can only hope to help his player to stay healthy, improve his physical condition and show him ways to develop skills.  And even these take time.

"People don't change overnight."  No, they don't.  Yet, in our data-driven world, teachers are now expected to make that happen.  Or at least to make changes happen on a designated schedule.  (reading by the end of first grade, division by March of second grade, indirect object pronouns by the third week of October).  It is not only ridiculous, it is IMPOSSIBLE!!!  The human body and the human mind (inextricably connected) do not function that way and there is no way to make them to.

Educators can (and sometimes do!) impose an artificial deadline for mastering every topic/skill under the sun, but in reality, three things will determine when the development takes place: 

1)  When the student is ready...
2)  How much exposure/practice the individual requires before the change   
     begins to occur...
3)  How much time is required for the change to become long-lasting...

Let's face it...acquiring a language is change.  It changes thought patterns and vocal patterns.  It accesses new parts of the brain and generates emotions.  It changes perspectives and attitudes.  And it will not happen overnight, nor according to a school calendar.

Why we have these artificial deadlines is another post entirely.  :o)  For now, it's (frustrating) enough to know that they exist and that teachers are judged by how well their students meet them.  What I have been pondering is how do we live with them?! 

So I've been attacking this problem the way my Geometry teacher taught me how to solve all of life's problems:  Start with the "Givens".

Given:  I am expected to "teach" XY and Z by June 25th.
Given:  I would like my students to really acquire _________by June 25th.
Given:  They are not the same thing.

So...I will have to make choices.  Ah...Now it is time for the If____then_____statements.

If I "cover" all of the material, then I can say that I did my job, but only a certain percentage of the students will be successful, therefore the powers that be will _______________I will feel_________.

If I go slowly enough that all students are successful I will only get part-way through the curriculum, therefore the powers that be will __________ and I will feel___________.

and so on and so forth...

This is nothing new for you all!  These are the decisions that we deal with every moment of every day.  (not to mention If I let one child go to the rest room then..., If I let one child get away with___, then..., If I call this parent then.... and so on and so forth)


Given:  I cannot do it all.
Given:  I can choose what I do.
Given:  I will have to live with the consequences.
Given:  I would like to be happy with what I have to live with.

So this year, instead of tearing my hair out over Time vs. Teaching (Teaching never wins!), I have decided to focus on Time AND the Teacher. 

Given: Time is a force I cannot reckon with. 
Given: Time has a power I cannot compete with. 

So my theorem for this year is: If I honor the power of Time, instead of fighting it, then what will be the result?

with love,