It’s us, not them.

My family and I recently went on holiday to a secluded villa in the North East of Thailand. On  the first day I took my little girls for a walk, they are 2 and 3 years old. I pulled them along and was in a mad rush to go wherever we were going (which was actually nowhere). I urged them to “hurry up” and got irritated if they stopped and I was forced to wait.

I was still in “work mode” or “school mode”.

Poor girls. Luckily, I realized the error of my ways and started letting them set the pace. By the last walk of the holiday I was carving bits of wood with a knife as we strolled along at their speed. They were stopping to draw in the sand, pick things up, touch leaves and flowers, watch butterflies, make observations and ask questions.

I realized that I had “de-schooled” myself. But, what does that say about the person I am when I’m teaching? Am I constantly hurrying my students along? Are they missing out on as many powerful moments and potential inquiries as my kids were on that first walk? Am I walking past my colleagues without saying “hello”? Why am I like that in school? What is it about the “busyness” of schools that makes us such manic people?

It must not continue. The time has come for people who work in schools to start looking at how we use time, and to start using time better. Most of us work in schools that profess to create people who will “create a better and more harmonious world”, but how harmonious are our schools, how mindful are our children, how frantic is the atmosphere?

It’s time to look at time, but we need to have the time to do it. Catch 22, or just another feeble excuse not to make positive change.

Do you have any stories like this?

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9 comments

  1. Cristina

    Hi Sam!

    As always, you take time to reflect on little things that make the big picture…And you are so right about our teacher-like attitude towards time: “I need an extra life to do this, and that, and the other!”
    I noticed this rush while I was monitoring some teachers (I was assigned to do that)…and then “caught’ MYSELF red handed! I WAS hurrying kids sometimes and thought it was just being dynamic and energetic :(. I try to be aware of it most of the time but I guess it does come with the territory – we have to do so many things (curriculum design, lesson plans, meetings, conferences etc) that it sort of embedded in our teaching DNA.
    Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    • Mr. Sam

      Ha ha! I love that idea of catching ourselves “red-handed” when we’re rushing and turning into those manic, frenzied teachers!!! I might use that idea, get people so aware of the way we habitually abuse time that they catch themselves and make it right. I do it every day, even yesterday I became aware that I was rushing through something because of the list of other “stuff” my students and I had to “get done”.

      I’ll give some though to how to set up the “Catch Yourself Red-Handed” Project!

  2. Rebecca

    Hi Sam

    How strange that I was just having the same conversation with my husband after I visited the school an ex colleague has started. She has the ‘luxury’ of small class sizes and what the kids were doing made me feel very envious. They were really taking the time to inquire with walks to the local forest, picnics in the park, exploring the local community and really taking time to wonder and explore in their inquiries. I wonder if this need sto be considered a luxury though – can we do the same in schools like ours where we are reminded of learning outcomes and standards that kids must meet by the end of …

    I left school today exhausted and wonder if my ‘busyness’ rubs off on my students when they see me rushing around photocopying, having meetings and all teh otehr stuff we do. I don’t like to sound shallow but Gwyneth Paltrow has a great website called Gloop and one of the pages is all about ‘being’. This is definitely something I am thinking about tonight as I plan our next maths unit – more time to explore and ‘be’ and less time doing.

    • Mr. Sam

      My wife, Kelli, recently came back from Reggio Emilia and it sounds as though your friend’s school is quite similar to the way they do things there. There seems to be an understanding of the power and value of time and that many experiences are very shallow and meaningless unless there is time to experience it fully and allow it to embed itself in who we are.

      We were planning a visit to a museum of Thai history yesterday, and we reached a consensus that we needed to spend almost a whole school day there instead of just an hour or so before madly rushing back. The idea is to let the kids explore the museum at their own pace and do all the things they want to do, like play the videos and games and interact with the displays. Then we’ll have lunch, and then go back in to do the things on the teachers’ agenda. How often do we manically rush students through these things, stressfully trying to ensure they all “learn something” before hurrying them out of there!

      I will check out Gloop – might even base the next blog posting on it – thanks for the tip!

  3. Simone

    Hey Sam – I like this post, so very true! The frenetic pace of school is actually one of the main reasons i’ve decided not to return to full-time work next year. Having a year out has helped me gain perspective and has shown me that it is ok to move at your own pace. Students definitely reflect the mood/pace of their teacher, just as our children do. It would be great for schools to stop and take a breath and slow down the pace but this can only happen from the top down. The website is goop.com and its newsletters are an interesting read.

  4. Andrew Musgrave

    Sam, I agree that sometimes you do have to pull yourself up and question why we rush around so much. Take the simple pleasues and small steps that you family and loved ones take. We do as individuals put too much emphasis on getting to our objectives, be these major or as minor as getting to the end of a walk. It happenned today I was meant to go shopping but my daughter wanted to stay in play, initially I was annoyed, but then I stepped back and played. Honestly I am glad that I played.

    • Mr. Sam

      Just like we have to get better at listening to our gut instincts again… we also have to get better at listening to our kids, doing what they think is important. I reckon they have a much better sense of what is important than we do!!!

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