Something Strange Happens to Time When You Teach

(Excerpted from my farewell letter to the staff of Crawford College Lonehill at the end of 2015.)

I love the subject I teach. (Actually, I just love teaching.) But teaching Geography is especially nifty, mostly because of how it teaches kids (and teachers) to think on different scales. When geographers look at a map, or a settlement, or weather patterns, or anything else, we have to zoom in to analyze the details, but we also need to zoom back out to identify trends, connections and patterns.

I think that teachers can become habituated to being zoomed in. We have due dates for marks and for comments, guidelines for getting sections of the syllabus done, deadlines for setting tests and assessments and moderation and so on.

We also do most our work in chunks of less than an hour and keep a very narrow focus to ensure that our students are engaged. We work on short, focused, nose-to-the-task timescales of periods, days and weeks. It gets so bad that when we look up at a child we've taught for a few years, it can be a real shock when it suddenly dawns on us how much they've actually changed in those years. And how quickly those years have gone by.

The problem with being so intensely focused is that sometimes it becomes difficult to uncross our eyes, to zoom back out, and to appreciate the bigger picture. And when things don't happen on our timescale, we become impatient, frustrated and sometimes even pessimistic. And there never seems to be enough time to learn new things, to reinvigorate our professional skills and to experiment with new ways of doing things.

But when we are able to take the time to see things on a wider time scale, and to see the patterns and trends which have emerged over a few years, a very different picture emerges.

I know there are daily irritations. I know there are things that perhaps don't work as well as they should. And the schools of today are not the same places they were a few years ago. They are never going to be. Times have changed. They have a habit of doing that.

But if we take the time to zoom out a little, to see how far we've come, and to look at the exciting things that are ahead, we can find the inspiration and the time to renew our passion for what we do, we can reinvent ourselves and what we do in the classroom, and focus again on what really matters.

It isn't a matter of time, it's a matter of perspective.





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