I’ve really been feeling the pinch of time in my classroom this school year. My new schedule has me on campus only three days a week, handing my classroom over to a partner teacher for the other two school days. I feel super productive when I am away from school, with long stretches of time to focus on specific work, flexible hours to schedule meetings and phone calls, and the ability to arrange most of my work travel on days I am not on campus.
But…I feel like time is taunting me when I am with my students. Each lesson and project seems to take longer than anticipated, forcing me to leave work hanging across weeks instead of days. I’ve found myself prioritizing and rethinking everything I ask students to do.
My past practice has been to use Fridays as a day of reflection and work completion, giving students long stretches of time to read and write and think. Without new instruction, they could dig deep, revise, rethink, and get projects done. Today, Monday became that kind of day (I no longer have Fridays with my students). I did have to spend some time reviewing expectations, reminding students of the work we started, but then they dug in…and that beautiful thing happened. Work began to hum, students were engaged, working at their own paces, allowing me to help individuals as needed. Time both stopped and flowed–no one needed to use the bathroom, roll around on the floor or annoy a classmate. I wasn’t feeling the need to rush students with my eyes glued to the clock, dolling out minutes like rationed resources (I’m thinking about the water restrictions we experience in Southern California).
The reality was that still everything didn’t get done. I’m already reevaluating and reprioritizing my plans for tomorrow, pushing off launching that new math concept to make space for a bit more finishing time, figuring out ways to make space to confer with students over a piece of writing they’ve been working on and provide feedback on another project. And I’m excited about some new reading and writing I have planned for tomorrow…something I’m already anticipating taking more of that precious time than I initially allotted.
Somehow I will figure out how to travel through time this year, carefully balancing new content with time to dig deep, think carefully and produce meaningful, high quality work products. I know I’ll still find myself with unfinished student work, lessons that run short and those that run long, requiring that continual rethinking of lesson plans.
I’m hoping that this will be the year that I learn to make time jumps, those science fiction leaps of faith: pushing time forward to see which lessons produce the best results and scrapping those that end up as a waste of time. But…just in case that doesn’t happen, I’ll keep paying close attention to my students, adjusting to their needs and reworking my plans to make sure school is more about learning than about time.