Deirdre Moore | January 2014

Time: A “Four Letter Word” in Education

I am a procrastinator, a dreamer, a planner, a slow processor.  I need time – to ruminate, to marinate, to cogitate.  What do I always hear from educators and what do I often gripe about?  There simply isn’t enough time!  And it’s so often true.  There are many expectations placed on educators and students alike and there never seems to be enough time to get them all done or get them all done well.  But here’s the irony.  Time is the only thing that allows things to be done well.  When we can give students time and a certain amount of structure, amazing things can happen.

I was recently talking with a music teacher who had a three year old banging on a drum as she talked with the mother of the child.  The mother was clearly irritated by the banging and was about to stop her child when this teacher asked the mother to wait.  They listened and shortly, the child started to organize her beats into clear rhythm patterns.  The mother was amazed and the teacher gratified.  The child just needed some time.

As I mentioned, I tend to procrastinate.  I had a membership to my local zoo which I had only used twice over the course of the year and it was about to expire.  I wanted to get the most of my membership (as much as I could in one more visit) and saw as much of the zoo as I could on Dec. 30th but I didn’t get to see the pandas.  I decided to go back again the following day, the last day my membership would be honored, to see the pandas.  What I had not planned to do was to go back to the see some of the animals I had seen the day before but I am so glad that I did.  Because I wasn’t just trying to get around to all the exhibits I was able to stay and observe the animals as long as I liked.  I was amazed at what I observed when I gave myself time.  I became fascinated by how the animals moved, how they related to one another, how they approached normal tasks such as eating and grooming.  It struck me what a difference giving myself time made in my interest in the animals and what I learned about them.

When I reflected on this idea of time and the results it can yield I was reminded of the first year I taught fifth grade.  In lieu of science books I was provided crates of science materials to use for particular experiments.  Suffice it to say some of the experiments were more successful than others.  One day we were experimenting with the magnetism and electricity kit.  While I don’t remember the intended experiment,  I do remember allowing the students to “play” with the magnets and other materials and being amazed at what informal experiments they were conducting to satisfy their own curiosity.  Although many of the specifics of that day are lost to me, I do remember the energy in the room and the level of engagement of my students.

These stories are all well and good but I know there are realities and deadlines facing every educator and decisions that need to be made daily about where time is spent.  However, if you are making any resolutions this year, perhaps you could resolve, every once in a while, to indulge yourself and your students and allow just a little more time.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.