“I never have enough time to … ”

I know there is general angst amongst teachers that there is never enough time – never enough time to cover the curriculum demands, never enough time to feel like we are doing justice to our ideals.  I know this is a reality.  It is a reality that is perhaps having a negative effect on our students.

The theme of time is often mentioned.  Henrietta Miller wrote of always rushing, starting from personal experience with her son then considering the classroom.  Watching the video Deadlines, highlights how important time can be in the creative and learning process.

Not long ago, I was placed in the position where I had to prepare something creative in a short period of time.   I found the time constraint paralysing.  I must note that there were many others given this task and they produced amazing results under the pressure of the time limit.    I was not one of them: my learning style wanted me to have time to go away, consider, tinker and then produce.   Obviously the adrenalin of a short-time frame can be positive for some, but I suggest not for all and definitely not all the time.

It made me think about the children in our classrooms who face similar situations. Do we treat them fairly when we prescribe quite tight timelines? I know some of our students have told us that they get annoyed when they are asked to move on to another task, just because the timetable says it is time to move on. I know this leads to many practical difficulties when accountability and schedules are pressing on our minds, however we can make adjustments. Henrietta says “…since I know that it is the learning that counts not the finished product. I reflect that I must find time for them to enjoy the process even if we have no product”.  There are times in our lives when we do have to adhere to deadlines, work to the clock, but I think we could be doing things better.

Richard Olsen of Ideas lab says learning should be – “self-directed, inquiry based and socially constructed” and I agree with him.   In my mind this automatically means we need to free students and teachers of some of the time constraints that have evolved over the years within school routines.  When we segment days into little boxes, it is hard to work towards these goals. I would welcome any comments … Do you work well under time pressure?  Can you see opportunities for us to allow more flexibility in the school day? Are you already giving your students this opportunity? What are the constraints or limitations? What elements of freedom, playfulness and fun do you provide in your classroom?