Time Matters

Your Time Matters

Have you ever arrived to the end of a day and wondered what happened to the moments in between? Education is a busy space filled with interactions and frames of time that bridge ideas and fill your perceptions with the way you can approach action. As new ideas and challenges arise, the minutes in your calendar fill up rapidly. As you navigate your days, finding peace and contentment with how your time is spent can seem like a challenge. Watching the empty spaces of time on your calendar disappear can push you to prioritize the space in the minutes in between to connect with others, reflect, create, implement, and refine ideas.

Landing Your Feet on the Ground

You most likely have never had a week that wasn’t filled with important things. That is because the work you do for kids is so important. You may find it to be a constant struggle to plant your feet firmly on the ground. That is because in education your feet never stay in one place. There are also going to be those days when you get pushed off balance. It will be clear to you how you intended to allot your time, transformed into something else that is out of your control. Does this sentiment sound familiar? What I am continuously learning is that every day can bring a fresh start to solidly land your feet on the ground again. You can approach the gift of time on a new day with renewed confidence and choose the way you spend your minutes despite the uncertainty some days may bring. 

Making the Time

For example, this week I had a lot of meetings in different places across my district. That meant that I needed to travel from one building to another frequently. I realized that I didn’t leave ample travel time on more than a few occasions. That also meant that towards the end of those particular meetings, I found myself trying to stay more in the moment because I had already started thinking about getting to the next one. Then, when I arrived at my new destination, I had little time to settle in, recalibrate, and collect my thoughts. During one of the meetings, I received a text from a teacher who knew I was in her building. “Lauren, I’d love you to come by my classroom to see something my students did if you have time.” I immediately looked at my watch and seconds later identified that I had three minutes to get to this classroom before traveling to my next meeting. The thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get there because seeing teachers and students is the most important part of the way I spend my time. When my meeting concluded, I basically ran to this teacher’s classroom. “Look Lauren, I wanted to show you that the whole grade level participated in the “One Word” activity for the New Year. We explained to them that this is a word they will focus on as they work towards meeting their social, emotional, and academic learning goals. Remember when you shared this with us last year? We’ve hung them all in the hallway and the students are always keeping their One Word at home.” My goodness. Of course I had remembered sharing this activity the year before, but never thought about the strength of its influence. Those three unexpected minutes suddenly turned into the most important part of my day. In making space for those minutes, a teacher shared that an instructional practice I shared had become a grade-level tradition and more importantly, left a positive impact on kids.

Three Ideas to Make Space for Time

There will always be a lot on the “to do” list. You know what I am talking about! This made me pause and think about three ways I will continue to schedule my time. I will look for ways to:

Prioritize People – If you are working towards continuous improvement in the work you are doing, keeping the focus on developing relationships, listening to people, and cross pollinating ideas is the best investment in time. In the book The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, he shares, “It is easy to lock yourself in your office, connect with people on Twitter, and appear from your room with some great idea or new thing…if you have lost focus on and connection with people in your building, even if you offer new ideas, they might not be embraced by those you lead.” It is vital to be visible and spend time learning from the teachers and students who are in the classrooms to create a better tomorrow.

Keep Goals in Focus – Look where you focus your time and energy. Are you filling your calendar with meetings that aren’t in line with district and building priorities? Who is involved and how will the use of that time impact the kids and colleagues you serve in positive ways? Are the conversations in these meetings learner focused? These questions may help you review your calendar in more critical ways. What meetings should stay and what can you do to eliminate the minutes that aren’t aligned with your goals and priorities?

Be More Responsive and Less Reactive – Think about this… what items on your calendar need to get done now and what can wait until later? Are the items in your calendar an intentional response to the important things you are working on? Will the meetings really solve a potential challenge or will they be a quick reaction, a band aid for an existing issue that requires more purposeful attention? I have found that being in spaces with proactive people who are more responsive and less reactive is beneficial because you are working together to take action on important things in intentional ways. When you are able to work with people who celebrate the good things, maintain a consistent vision, and identify potential concerns, you are positioned in solutions oriented spaces of time.

Moving Forward

Your days are filled with chances. Push yourself to take a closer look at how you make space for meaningful moments of time. Examining each day with fresh eyes will cultivate your commitment to capture your own time with greater intention and purpose. Time matters.

Moving with Time

My Perpetual Internal Clock

5:30 am… this is the time my morning routine begins. This is the time, my mind begins to race as I instantly start to think about all of the things I want to accomplish in my day. This is the time my internal clock is set to, even when I don’t have anywhere specific to be. This is a time when no one else in my house is awake yet. It’s my time. A time to ponder, to think, to analyze, to reflect, and to set new goals. I’ll admit, it’s REALLY hard for me to turn off the thoughts and ideas that speed like wildfire through my head. It kind of feels like a dream, the ones with different scenes that overlap with one another. The kind of dreams where there are problems that present themselves as barriers and you have that urgent feeling to search for the right solutions. The kind of dream where you encounter various people you have met in your life and you are happy they are there to be the thinking partner who will help you overcome the challenges. Do you ever think about how you can navigate your days with intention and purpose and who you may invite to come along for the journey? 

Choosing Time

Time… time is something that we all have and choose to use in different ways. One way isn’t better than the other, that’s what makes us who we are. For me, when I am in professional thinking mode, I tend to perseverate over how I will use my time so that I can make a difference for learners and the educational community. I ask myself, “What could I do differently today and make it better than yesterday? I believe that this type of thinking actually works well in our current climate. The way we are learning and the types of resources we have access to are constantly changing within spaces of time. It’s happening really fast. Day by day… hour by hour… minute by minute. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep up with it all. It’s like running a race. You take off with plenty of open space in front of you and then suddenly there are hurdles that get in your way. It’s a barrier that doesn’t appear to be moving, and you must figure out a way to successfully move beyond it. Do you stop and run backward or do you keep moving forward? More than ever, we are living in times where we must roll up our sleeves and embrace the change. Actually, to me, there is no other choice. It is dangerous to say “This is the way we have always done it”. Our world and the learners that exist within it are constantly evolving and educators have an obligation to stay ahead of the curve. It is also important to understand that we do not have to do it alone. After all, aren’t we in a field of sharing and collaboration? We must constantly rally together to analyze, reflect, assess, and work deliberately towards improving instruction, the practices we employ, and solutions to instructional issues that get in the way. It is crucial to invite others to share their expertise and guide us towards providing optimal learning experiences for students. Katie Martin recently shared the image below on Instagram that expresses just what I am saying. We can choose to use our time to actively seek out opportunities that will help us thrive in the unpredictable times we are living in.

Katie Martin

We Can Dance in the Puddles

Time…it is time to think differently about the things we are used to seeing daily and create systems that support the process for creating and refining ideas. In a recent Future Ready podcast, Thomas Murray interviewed Superintendent, Dr. Tiffany Anderson. I was captivated by her ideas, convictions, and courageous leadership qualities. She expressed how her school district recognized that they must be versatile and adaptable as they shifted to remote learning. She mentioned that if you leverage technology well, you can continue learning in all different ways. She went on to say that since we have not been confined to our classroom walls, there are no borders that will get in the way of our growth…the possibilities are limitless. The challenging times we have been faced with have led us to take a deeper look into how students and educators learn. These times have allowed us to be more innovative than ever before and have prompted us to take more risks.  I have always believed in the power of being a connected and networked educator, and this notion only amplified the value of it. Dr. Anderson also indicated that students and educators are truly resilient to the new structures that have been put in place. This idea really resonated with me because we can now think intentionally about using our time differently than we have before. And, because there are so many unknowns, that there is no “right” way to approach this work. The idea of starting with what you know, learning the facts, and then moving forward, makes it all more manageable. Of course, the preparation for this type of learning certainly has to have a great deal of flexibility. My favorite part of this podcast is when Dr. Anderson says that when it rains, and right now it’s a thunderstorm, “You have two options. You can complain about the rain or you can dance in the puddles.”  I have certainly seen educators in my own school district and in districts across the country dancing in the puddles. This work is admirable. It can be hard. It can be emotional. It can be draining. But, it sure is rewarding! These virtual spaces have really opened up times to collaborate and connect with colleagues in new and exciting ways! I highly recommend viewing this incredible podcast as there are so many MORE gems of information and words of wisdom shared.

Time Moves Forward

Time…time is moving and the world continues to evolve in ways we could have never imagined. When my 5:30 a.m. internal clock wakes up, I will continue to think about how learning is messy. I will continue to perseverate on how I can make teaching and learning better. I will continue to think about the challenges that are getting in the way. I will continue to think about how learning is not a step by step, linear process. I will continue to think that it’s complex and often requires multiple solutions that have several correct answers. One thing I can say with certainty is that my mind will never stop moving with time. I am committed to rolling up my sleeves, embracing the change, navigating the days with intention and purpose, and inviting others to join me!

time