It’s us, not them.

My family and I 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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13 comments

  1. Paul Dunbar

    Well worth bumping this to the top, Sam. It’s the essence of what Time Space Education is about – right?

  2. Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr)

    Sam, I feel very fortunate to teach Language Arts, and have 80 min/day to do so. I took the first 10 days of the year to work on developing community in our classroom, and to let them know the reasons we do what we do in L.A. Many teachers would call this a waste of time, but I believe it has strengthened my classes – they are doing more work, and less of it is graded. I don’t have to rush through things, because we’re doing some things very well – digging deeper than I could in previous years because of the buy-in I’ve gotten. Phew!

    This this week I realized (again) that it’s us, not them when it comes to behavior in the classroom, as well. A couple of teachers I know are ready to implement “team-wide” discipline for one class of students. Well, it’s really not them – it’s how we are running our classes. I don’t see the issues they do (as much) because we have a lot more discussion in our class than they provide in theirs. It’s what I do to set the tone of the class – if they aren’t following protocol, then I need to reflect – what could I change?? Thank you for this post – the title is perfect!

    • sherrattsam

      Anything that we do, as teachers, to set the mood and the atmosphere so that the kids can be at their best is time very well spent. To some, it may look like a waste of time or “gimmicky”, but our experience shows that there is immense power in it.

  3. hkteach

    WoW! What a great post! And fantastic timing for me.
    Just finished a 7 day holiday for China National Day and I used the time productively. I got my assignment well on its way, crossed off a number of to do things on my list, got some work done, cruised and surfed the internet. Feeling relatively pleased with my self and even managed a movie or two.
    As many of us do I wear many hats, learner, administrator, teacher, coahc, wife and mother…..
    Now look at my list,,,,do you see who comes last? The most important people in my life….why? Just asking!

    Am I so driven by to do lists and work that I have forgotten what it shoudl be all about?

    COming back to school after a holiday is often tough for me – I am so focused and reenergised I often forget to slow down – have a coffee, have a chat….ask questions of people and make small chat. Why do I do this? I actually really like the people I work with? so why do I keep my head down and avert eyes when I am busy? Education is about people….so why when I need help do I avoid them? Time to reflect and make time, go to lunch – have a coffee and put things in perspective….

    So…off now to read with my 7 year old, and explore answers to my 5yr old’s questions “does batman wear undies under his pants as well as over?” ( He is currently is inquiring into this problem πŸ™‚ ) and to have some serious cuddle time……

    Thanks for the gentle push and reminder back into reality…..

    • sherrattsam

      What a personal comment – thank you so much. Yesterday, I was at home feeling rather sick. Because I was at home, I was there when my kids came back from school. I put my little boy to bed for his nap after having a snack with him. I cuddled up with my daughters and we read stories. Later, when they emerged from their rests, I helped them settle into playing some games or doing some drawing. We all benefited so much from that time together… but… of course, I am not usually there. I am putting all my time and energy into being with other people’s kids! Often, when I get home, I am exhausted and “over it” and get snappy with my own little ones. This is a bit of a travesty isn’t it?

  4. concentricthinking

    Very true… It always takes me at least 3-4 days to slow down from the all the frantic spinning of the typical day to day. It’s like having to train yourself to be still and silent. I will often keep checking my email and will feel disappointment when there is nothing there. It’s like keeping busy is a distraction from being still when being still is exactly what I need when I have the time and space to do it. We can be our own worst enemy, just like the above comment points out. Slow down. Step back. Think about how what we do spills over to others. When the demands of the school heats up (like reporting time) my energy then transfers onto the kids and we all end up losing it. A post like this one does gently remind us all what is actually important. We set the tone. A great conversation to have – more, more.

  5. Paul Fuller

    Thanks for sharing this. It is exactly how I feel right now. I have just got back from a camping trip with two of my kids and we all got along so well. No arguments, no rush, no snappiness. It was a real joy. This ‘slowing down’ is something that I want to work on as the inevitable stress of fourth term hits. How do I continue to be there — really be there — for the most important kids in the world to me? Great post and perfect timing.

    • sherrattsam

      Sounds like a very important camping trip you just had!

      This week, I made sure I went home at four every day and when I got home I took my kids out on their bikes. My 6 year old has learned to ride her bike without training wheels in just three sessions. I can’t think of a more obvious and poignant example of the effect we have as parents if we can just let go and give our own kids more of our time!

  6. kathmurdoch

    I am hearing a lot, lately, about the ‘glorification of busy-ness’…. and it really has got me thinking. I am SO aware that the intense, busy, frantic atmosphere in many classrooms is the enemy of quality learning. There is a slow food movement…there needs to be a ‘slow learning’ movement…taking time to follow students’ lead and time to notice ourselves and each other. Almost every conversation I have with teachers includes a reference to being busy….and we are! But do we sometimes (myself included) almost wear the ‘busy badge’ with pride…and feel guilty if we are NOT busy? Maybe we need to take ‘busy’ off its pedestal and relish a slower pace. I know I do!

    • sherrattsam

      Several powerful quotes from you here, Kath!

      “The glorification of busy-ness”
      “There needs to be a slow learning movement”
      “…we need to take “busy” off its pedestal and relish a slower pace.”

      Let’s start the slow learning movement… slowly!

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