Finding Time

Finding extra time is one of the biggest problems I face in my classroom. I have found a way to add about thirty minutes to my weekly teaching time, and I really didn’t have to do anything hard at all; all I had to do was get rid of my clock.

We all know teachers put a lot of time in preparing their lesson. One vitally important part of any lesson is the closure – where the entire period’s work is all pulled together so the teacher can get important feedback on how the lesson went. Each day I noticed when the class time would draw close to being done and I was ready to do my “all important” closure – my student’s attention spans were as finished as my class time nearly was. As the seconds ticked by on the clock showing only five minutes left of class, they began gathering their books, putting away their pencils, slipping on their jackets. Each and every day I lost the last five minutes of my class while they routinely packed up for the period to get ready for the next class. I realized if I could get that five minutes back each day that by the end of the week I would gain twenty-five minutes of valuable teaching time, if not maybe even a little bit more!

So, I took down the clock.

It didn’t take long for someone to notice. A hand went up. Of course the student wanted to know where my clock had gone. He seemed shocked when I told him we would no longer have a clock in the room. Now, I know what you are thinking – there are clocks on computers, students can wear watches, and in some schools students can even check their cell phones, but all of these are individual clocks. The one clock on the wall that all students focused on was gone. It was missing. It was no more. You see, when even just one student began looking at the clock, all other eyes would follow. The center piece of time ticking away was removed and with it, so was their wandering attention.

At first the students complained, but their complaints didn’t last long. I cannot tell you how many students I’ve had say to me, “Time just flies when we are in this class.” Now, I’d like to, of course, take part of the credit for that by believing my class is simply so enjoyable that the time flies by, but I know that is only a small part of what they mean. When the students stopped being clock watchers, they became more engaged in what was going on in the room. When people are busy, time does go by fast. My students became busy learners rather than time watchers.

I am on my fourth year of having a classroom with no clock, and I will never go back. When a substitute is invited into my classroom, I always leave a note or message to let him or her know where the clock is hidden. Sometimes I must pull out the clock for timed assignments or group projects that need a timer, but the clock never hangs from the wall. Each year as I get a new class of students, I wait to see how long it will take for one of the students to comment on the absence of my time piece. Most adjust quickly to the clock being gone, but there are always a few who cannot believe a classroom could exist without a clock. I even had one student go out and buy me a clock; I was quick to tell him how much I loved the gift and how I would proudly hang the clock in my kitchen at my house.

Time is precious; time is much too precious to waste just watching it tick by and that’s a lesson even the students enjoy learning.

Susan Mackey Collins is a veteran teacher who has taught at both the elementary and middle school level. She currently teaches 6, 7, and 8th grade Advanced Language Arts at Sycamore Middle School outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
She has authored many books for Teacher Created Resources including Cursive Writing Activities, the Discovering Genres Series, and many of the titles from our popular Mastering Skills Series.

One thought on “Finding Time”

  1. Marian

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Though I am not a teacher, I have discovered the same concept works for me at home. After dinner, I turn my two tabletop clocks around so that I don’t know the time I go to bed. When I get up early in the morning I have no idea how much sleep I have gotten. This helps me because when I do know I seem to feel more tired.

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