We Make Time for What We Value: The Third Commandment of Methods

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The title of this post is one of my all-time favorite teaching quotes from Randy Bomer’s Time for Meaning: Crafting Literate Lives in Middle and High School, one of my all-time favorite books about teaching English Language Arts.

I still remember feeling struck dumb when I first read this line. Wait a second. Not having enough time can’t be my excuse anymore? Because I am actually in control of how I spend my time? And I need to prioritize according to what I value? You mean the way we actually SPEND class time conveys more to our students about what we think is important than what we SAY is important conveys?

Huh.

How much easier it is to clutter a curriculum with filler and busy work.

Busy work is a comforting crutch–for ourselves and for our students. (I had plenty of students who MUCH preferred–or at least said they much preferred–a worksheet packet to the difficult work of critical and creative thinking).

It’s also usually what’s familiar–the vocabulary drills and spelling words and quizzes and “Odyssey board games” (my shorthand this semester for those ubiquitous, time-consuming, and probably pointless reading “extension activities”) we have all experienced in ELA class.

But it’s also truly difficult to figure out what really is important, what we truly value, what we need make time for, when we have so many competing issues, topics, themes, approaches and ideas that may all seem worthy of our attention.

“We make time for what we value” is one of my mantras in Methods class, and I say it frequently, especially when confronted with various “buts” and “ands” from pre-service teachers who are concerned about the amount of content they’re responsible for “covering” in their ELA classes.

“But I don’t have time to do that too!” they protest.

I shrug. “We make time for what we value.”

Photo Credit: David Gallagher

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One thought on “We Make Time for What We Value: The Third Commandment of Methods

  1. Great point. Sometimes, I feel like our hands are tied with what the tests dictate. Yes, my kids actually prefer the busy work to the ‘hard thinking’ work.

    And sometimes, I think it is hard to figure out the priorities in teaching English…there are so many areas to cover …I feel like we can’t do them all justice (grammar, writing, vocab, critical reading/thinking, literary analysis, etc)

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