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No Time Today!by Gail Beyrer

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Gail Beyrer, an AmeriCorps veteran whose husband also is a teacher, teaches fourth grade on Long Island, New York.

Time! Theres simply not enough of it in the school day. On a recent Friday afternoon, for example, while trying to finish a very rough long-term curriculum map for social studies, I kept thinking that I had just enough time to finish the major topics, if I kept to my schedule and if nothing out of the ordinary happened. In other words, I would have finished, if I had had super powers -- powers to make time stand still. Since that didnt happen, I had to readjust my thinking instead!

But that's nothing new. Im constantly struggling with the many demands of the school day, trying to fit in everything. Sometimes I feel as though the passage of time in school is magical -- not magical in a "golden egg" kind of way, but magical in its ability to just slip away.

Gail Beyrer

I wonder if perhaps a mischievous time elf -- learning that you are on prep time -- makes the clock move faster. Since prep is the shortest part of the school day anyway, there's just no way to get all the planning, paperwork, meetings, and so on, done in the time allowed. (That, of course, is one reason so many teachers leave the school building juggling an assortment of books and bags!)

Then there is the way I speak to my students when I feel time slipping away. "Wow, Maria, thats a great question," I enthuse, "but we will not have time to discuss it today." "Im sorry Luke," I regretfully intone, " you cant share your visit to the place weve been studying; your trip is not going to be on the test." I cant believe the things that come out of my mouth sometimes, in my effort to race against the clock.

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In my district, the school day starts at 8:40 a.m.. The kids unpack, copy homework, and solve their Problem of the Day.

At 9 a.m., we have math. (At least, thats the time were supposed to start, barring notes from Mom, forgotten homework assignments, or trouble at home.)

The next thing I know, its after 10 a.m. -- time to get the kids ready to head off to their reading groups; time for me to switch gears and get ready for the children coming to me for reading instruction.

Then its 11 a.m. -- time for a special and lunch. (Theres the time elf moving things along again!)

Before I know it, 2:45 p.m. has arrived, and I have to wrap up whatever Im doing, so the kids can be dismissed as close to 3 p.m. as possible.

At the end of the day, I look at my plan book, and draw arrows or stick post-it notes over all the lessons I didnt finish. As Scarlet OHara said, "Tomorrow is another day!"

As teachers, we become skilled managers of time. We are constantly re-shuffling our days to make sure we cover the material we have to cover in spite of the variables that are the students we teach. In a training session on effective teaching I attended, however, I learned that covering a lot of material doesnt mean your students have learned that material. I constantly have to remind myself that the important thing is that the children are learning, and that I have to match my pace to theirs.

I want my students to truly learn. I want them to see how much the creation of the Erie Canal changed New York. I want them to understand that there are many different ways to solve a problem, and that thinking about that problem isnt a waste of time. I want them to know that the writing process is indeed a process, and that writing a rough copy does not mean youre finished writing!

I want my students to develop a true love of literature, and to read just for fun. I want them to ask questions. I want them to encourage one another when they succeed and when they make mistakes.

All that takes time. But I'm determined that -- even if I have to find the mischievous time elf and give him a stern talking to in my best teacher voice -- I will find the time necessary for my students to learn. I might not finish the social studies textbook, but... theres always next year!

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Gail Beyrer
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02/11/2003