Can we break free of our servility to timetables?

It’s interesting to ponder what our lives would be like without clocks or watches or timepieces of any kind. Would chaos ensue or would we find an entirely new way of organising ourselves? Perhaps our need for rigid time management would subside – we might evolve into a very different kind of human race.

The map is not the territory; clock measurement is not time itself; a calendar or to-do list is not a life.

It’s so very seductive to concentrate on those little chunks of time – to see the obedience to and the conquering of those seconds, hours and minutes according to our own strictures – if we have completed the stated tasks within the stated time, then surely this is a success? But this success is measured quantitively rather than qualitatively. Is it enough to have done a thing in time rather than concentrating on how well it is done no matter how long it takes?

In my Pilates teaching it’s best practice to allow clients to complete a set number of repetitions in their own time, according to their own breath, their own bodies and their own abilities – with a “once you have completed” instruction (usually a stretch) for those who finish first. Would it be possible for us to transfer this model to more of our teaching and learning? Is there a way we can build more flexibility into our school timekeeping?

We hear, “It’s just the time . . . ” over and over again from educators – could we change the culture to think about timetabling in a completely new way?

Difficult though it is to imagine how we would run a school without a hard and fast timetable, it might be worth considering the effect that less strict time management would have on our children’s development.

There are cultures who allow their children to be in charge of their own time in the belief that this increases their sense of independence and self-reliance; and experts tell us that time to day dream and allowing the mind to wander is essential for complex problem solving. We all know that individual children need different amounts of time to fulfil different tasks, and the myriad variables of modern life also impact on this – and yet we make little room for this variation in our educational establishments, perhaps because we are afforded little flexibility in our own day to day lives.

Now and again we find ourselves able to feel a more natural measurement, it might be expressed as ‘timing’ rather than ‘time’ – that experience where we allow ourselves the necessary minutes for whatever task we have set ourselves, regardless of outside influences or pressures. Have you stopped to notice how this makes you feel as opposed to when you have a deadline to meet, or even just a limited about of time to complete a task? Does it have any effect on your information retention and/or analysis?

Why not – as a challenge – set aside one day during the summer break where you allow yourself enough time for each and every activity of the day, hurrying is extinct. Just see if there is any difference in what you can achieve in the time, and how valuable the experience is – whichever way it goes, it may hold interesting insights as to how you manage time for yourself and your classes.


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