It’s Time


There’s nothing like a funeral to remind us that our days on this earth are numbered. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


I often hear that time is one of the greatest barriers to teachers doing innovative things in their classrooms. I don’t have time to flip my classroom, or start a student blogging project, or connect with other schools, or develop an inquiry-based approach to some of my units. There’s not enough class time. There’s not enough planning time. There’s certainly not enough time for collaboration and professional development.

There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.

For the first time, I had the time discussion with my boss. The things that have to get done this summer are not going to get done. We don’t have enough time to finish. This is different from the past. Some years, we get to the end of July and pull a few things off the list. This may have to wait until October. That might have to be pushed back until winter break. That’s normal. But this year, there are too many things that have to be done before school starts. And the clock keeps ticking.


Every year is getting shorter. Never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught, or half a page of scribbled lines.

Education is obsessed with time. A high school credit is generally earned though 120 hours of class time. A college “hour” consists of fifteen hours of contact time in a class (generally an hour a week for a fifteen week term). Classroom time and planning time and lunch time are broken down into minutes per week. For the last 100 years, we’ve measured learning primarily by time spent.


Ironically, in education, we have nothing but time. When I was in high school, a teacher from a neighboring school talked to a group of us about the teaching profession. “We have 180 days of school per year,” she said, “and we have two teacher-report days. That makes 182 days per year that I work. That means I have 183 days off.” She made it a point to be in school every day, dedicated to doing her best work. While teachers work more than 182 days now, the point that we need to bring our A games every day is still valid.


Flowing like a river. Beckoning me. Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever.

At Kamasengre Secondary School on Kibuogi island in western Kenya, school starts at 7:40 and ends at 5:10. Many students in rural Kenya walk three miles or more to and from school. Since they’re a few miles from the equator, they have 12 hours of daylight year round. Each year, there are three school terms, 13 weeks each. We often hear about the over-achievers in China, Japan, and India whose children spend nearly every waking moment in school. But longer school days, and longer school years seem to be the rule, not the exception.


If you’re too old now, you’ll be older in a year when time flies by.

One of my daughters gets up at 6:15 on school days. She gets dressed and ready for school. Mom takes her to car pool, and then she rides to school, arriving at 7:30. School beings promptly at 8:00. She attends classes until 3:00, with breaks between them, lunches, recess, and change times. Dismissal is at 3:00, when she gets a ride from car pool. Then, Mom picks her up from the carpool meeting place at 3:45 and she’s home by 4:00. She’s in sixth grade this year, so she can expect 60 minutes of homework per night.

My other daughter gets up at 8:45, starts school at 9:00, spend six hours of class time on her studies (not counting breaks or lunch or recess), is finished before her sister gets home, and generally has no homework.


It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory. A case of do or die.

We need teachers spending more time honing their craft. We need students spending more time on productive academic work. We need to stop wasting so much time on administrivia and busywork. We need to become more efficient with the time we have. And yet, we can’t make these changes because we don’t have


Photo credit: Alan Cleaver on Flickr.

(Did you get all of the quotes? First one to name them all gets a prize).


Author: John Schinker

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