“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?

What’s the rush?

Reading ” In a world of instant news, what cost the digital diet? in The Age newspaper 17Mar2012, made me think.

Does our new found need or desire to be in two places at once – the real and the virtual, detract from our experiences?   The article mentions a journalist attending an event and viewing the occasion through the lens of his camera and through eyes raised only between tweets on his mobile device.   The same scenario has started to occur at conferences that I have attended.    I certainly have enjoyed being the recipient of twitter feeds from events that I have not attended – felt like I was there in a way.  I have tweeted from events myself.  I watch Twitter feeds of TV shows like QANDA and appreciate the breadth of thought and perspectives that they expose.

I believe that this pattern of reporting on happenings whilst still experiencing them can have both positive and negative side-effects.   Your obvious ‘distractabilty’ or lack of attention must in a way reduce your ability to take in the event with all it’s ambience and features.  However, the ability to see what others are feeling about the same event could help you focus or raise your awareness – gain another perspective and make the experience richer. The question remains, do we need information and reflection at such a rapid pace?  Would it be better for people to wait to report after time for consideration?  What is being gained, if anything, by this drive to be the first to report?  Wendy Squires states,

Stories become stale in seconds and real time is barely quick enough. You practically have to be Nostradamus to keep up. I also understand Twitter is a ravenous beast that needs to be continuously fed, not so much a stream of information but an ever-escalating tsunami.

It appears that to slake the perpetual thirst for instant news, it has become as important to report what you are doing as to actually experience it. Living in the now is being replaced with ”I’ll watch it back later on TV”; the naked eye is now covered by a viewfinder; typing is the new talking.

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The pressure is obviously on the media to present news at a rapid pace.  What message are we giving the people presenting or performing for us when we are more focussed on technology in our hands that is connecting us to people not in the room?   I suppose, as with many things in life, it comes down to moderation, levels of acceptable behaviour and good manners.   Photographs are so important as recordings of events and invaluable in our maintenance of history – I spend many hours reviewing old photos and delight in my photo walls depicting family history.  Someone took the time to record these experiences, but more modern technology seems to have created a more invasive presence in the ‘here and now’.

I remain a little undecided, although leaning towards the path of being happy to await my ‘reviews’ until people have had the opportunity to take it in and reflect and then share.    People in our presence deserve our attention.  Face to face interactions are still more important than virtual ones.  Once again, I guess it comes down to balance.


Image:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net