Sand in the 20-minute-glass

The children I teach are not very time-sensitive.  I’ve tried timers.  I’ve tried putting a clock on the wall.  I’ve tried designing lessons around specific times.  Nothing seems to work.

Then I was in TJ Maxx the week before school started, and I found an hourglass.  It didn’t look large enough to be an hourglass, actually.  It looked like it might be a half-hour glass.  It was certainly too large to be a minute glass or even a 3-minute glass.

Lo and behold, it was a 20-minute glass.  I timed it one afternoon before school started.

So now I keep track of time in the class using the glass.   The fallen sand lets students know how much time has passed, the sand remaining lets them know how much time remains.

So we take 5 minutes at the start of class to get their assignment notebooks in order, and then I turn over the glass for some discussion time about Marcus Aurelius.  When the glass is empty, we flip it once. The sand runs out almost exactly as the bell rings.

The kids are coming to class calm, and they seem to be engaged and involved. Their writing needs improvement, but they’re going to get readings in primary sources all term from the Roman Empire: letters and poetry and history and what passed for science and some geography, and some maps and art history and artifacts too.

And the hour glass is — I think — helping them understand what we’re doing.

Eventually, I want to divide the class from so that we spend time on two different things — at the turn of the 20-minute glass, we’ll work on something else besides discussion. But we’ll get there.  We’ll get there.

I no longer feel rushed as a teacher, actually.  I feel confident in the ability of the great writers of the past to provide students with a transformative experience, no matter how many or how few of them they read.  And the fact that the school Tech department got my wiki and blog up and running this week, in spite of trying to register every computer in school at the same time, is a blessing.  So I’ll be able to put our reading materials up on our school website at the same time.

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