We Need More Time To Engage

After considering the different viewpoints presented in this week’s LEARN portion, I’ve arrived at what I feel is an important aspect of utilizing the internet and other technologies effectively in our classrooms, and our daily lives; time.

We all know that time is a precious commodity. There is a finite amount of how much of we get during various aspects of our lives; we only have so much time for each period in our classrooms; our prep time is only so long; we only have so much free time at home, or free time that we can mentally allot towards learning; in short, there are only so many hours in a day. My argument would be that with time being such a limited resource, it has a significant impact on how we engage in the activities that we either want or have to do in our daily lives. Let me give you an example from my personal life.

I love to read. During the summer, I spend a lot of my days reading internet articles (mostly centered around technology and science news), and I also enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy novels. However, during the school year, even in my free time, I begin to feel rushed. I often drop reading novels all together, and much of my online article reading gets diluted down to browsing headlines, and skimming a few short articles, rather than engaging several in depth articles. With such a limited amount of time to engage in material that I am passionate about, it makes it even more difficult to engage in opposing views. In this regard, a limited amount of time also shrinks my affinity space, and limits the viewpoints that I take in. I’m sure that many of you have similar experiences. Most of us are realist, and understand that this sort of duality comes with the teaching profession. My concern is that this rushed feeling is also present in our classrooms.

Pressure from state mandated standards, the need to perform on standardized tests, and the perception that you have to cover “everything”, can make educators feel extremely short on time in their classrooms. My fear is that this rushed attitude pushes us to perpetuate the points that Nicholas Carr makes in his talk (found here). Are our rushed classroom settings training our students to be superficial learners? Do we give students enough time to truly engage in the content and think and innovate? Or, do we just give them enough time to swallow what are perceived as the “needed” facts, regurgitate them, and then move on to the next spot in the buffet?

What’s more interesting, or alarming if you want to take the pessimist route, is that we know a lot of the issues are present in our schools, and yet we don’t take action (at least not enough action) to counteract this superficial learning culture. I recently surveyed some of my colleagues about the wicked problem of “Re-Thinking Teaching for the 21st Century”, and my findings show that educators in my district certainly see room for improvement in how we engage students, how we assess students, and how we evaluate teachers:

The question then becomes, Why haven’t we taken action to address these perceived needs in our district? Again, I would argue that it all comes down to time. We all know that teachers only have so much time in a day where they aren’t directly working with students. Although we have time allotted for collaboration between teachers, these collaboration sessions often happen sporadically, with long periods of time passing in between meetings. This makes it difficult to focus on an issue, and keep enough momentum to turn our wonderful conversations into action and change in the district.

So, from one wicked problem sprouts another (as I’m sure often happens). How do we get teachers enough time to enact meaningful change in their districts?

References:

Carr, N. G. (2011). The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.

2 thoughts on “We Need More Time To Engage

  1. Wow, Drew! Thanks for sharing your insight. I could not agree more with your stance on time. As a Kindergarten teacher, I see the pressure to push my students to excel on standardized tests. I feel as a teacher to five and six year olds, I am constantly pressuring them to understand. I feel I can not give them the breathing room they need because of the district and state requirements I am required to meet. At my current school they give me more time than any other school district I have been to. I am given around one day a month where they hire a sub to child study, look at data, or lesson plan. I can tell by just this one day how much I can get accomplished to better my students. I can only imagine if we were given more time. But unfortunately sometimes the more time we are given could negatively effect our students. I think this is a whole new wicked problem we need solved. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Absolutely correct: time is elusive. But taking the time we have and making the most of it is key. I think this begins with PD, meetings, assemblies, etc. There is nothing worse than thinking “this is a waste of my time. I could be using this time to __”. In our classrooms, however, how many of our students are thinking the same thing? I found this definition of ENGAGE – to establish meaningful connection with. I like that.

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