Friday, December 9, 2011

Time Well Spent

A few days ago as I drove into school I thought about how pressed for time I am and how unpleasant it is to feel this way during the Christmas season. My house isn’t decorated beyond two items I bought last week which I set in a temporary spot upon the windowsill, my shopping isn’t close to being finished, no cards have been sent, and no baking has been done. I blame back pain, school work demands, and the children’s activities. Fatigue and the stress of work have put a damper on my enjoyment of this season. Luckily, my passion for writing these blog posts allows me a chance to stop and reflect in a way I need to.

Thinking along these lines, I came into the classroom today and looked at the tired weary faces of my AP students. I wondered about these teens who take on the most challenging of courses, who get very little sleep on school nights, and who race through their To-Do lists. Do they stop long enough to reflect? Do they stop long enough to simply BE ? When we as adults push our teens in their academics and in various other responsibilities, do we also take time to help them see the need to be balanced? Do we help them value the human need for rest and relaxation?

I told my students that in the summertime we have more of a tendency to drop everything and to make time for the things we love. We take time to float on the lake, to rest in a hammock, to sit outside at night listening to the crickets. But in the throes of a hectic school year, we race from place to place and often lose our footing. So I told them I wanted to do something small this morning to stop the craziness. I gave them 15 minutes to simply BE. “If you feel like writing, write. If you can jump into a book for enjoyment, do that. If you want to chill and listen to music, do that. Doodle, daydream, fight the urge to finish homework that you need to do and do something restful. This may feel awkward and I know it’s only for a short time but drop everything else and give yourself 15 minutes”.

They looked at me with quizzical expressions and I had to laugh to myself as I associated this with the way I used to put my children down for their daily naps. (Okay, so maybe my toddlers hadn't needed to nap on a particular day but I needed them to?!) But being the good sports that they are, my 13 AP teens took me seriously. Some listened to music. One girl drew a picture. I saw others writing and reading and yes, as expected, surfing the web. I had considered having them not turn to the computer but I did not want to put limitations on what they chose to do in those fifteen minutes. If some chose to play an online game, who was I to say they needed to spend their 15 minute gift of time differently? It wasn’t the time to preach about unplugging, nor have I made up my mind on the debate on whether technology helps or hinders our attempts to slow down the pace of our lives.

After the 15 minutes, after my students told me that those fifteen minutes had proven to be “not awkward” but “really nice”, we dove into the lesson of the day. We tackled Shakespeare’s Macbeth, reading the play aloud and stopping at various times to discuss the language, the play’s motifs, and characterization. Students also selected soliloquies to study, interpret, and memorize by January. It’s easy to say the fifty minutes after our initial 15 minutes of rest were spent in strong academic study. We worked diligently but at the same time, there was laughter and smiles. We were indeed a community of learners, a community of people who could balance work with play, seriousness and scholarship with silly banter and giggles (I suppose taking the role of First Witch as we’re reading Macbeth Act I and reciting the lines in my best “witch voice” always helps entertain too).

I may have much to do to prepare for Christmas but I feel I have a done a few things “right” this year. I have stopped and have dropped everything to be there for the young people in my life--my teens at school and my kids at home. There have been times of quiet study and loads of laughter too. Christmas is so much more than tinsel and trees. The gift of time is one gift these young people deserve, whether it is time we give them to simply relax on their own, or time spent with us adults (talking, doesn’t matter). Teens need “time well spent” in their journey toward adulthood. As with ourselves as we make our own way through life, this time is worth so much. On a daily basis, we’re all worth those fifteen minutes at the VERY least.

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