Yesterday there were, as usual, some brief periods during my classes when some students had nothing to do. This happens, for instance, when students are copying information from the board and the faster writers have perhaps thirty seconds to kill as they wait for classmates to finish. Generally these might be considered wasted moments to be avoided, but I like to think of them as refreshing pauses to be enjoyed. Most of my students rush around in their young lives in a frantic fashion, doing ten tasks and then ten more and then ten more. I disagree with teachers who say that students live relatively lighthearted lives, because what I see in my school could best be described as a madcap tumult of activity: class after class after class with a two-minute break, then sports, then homework, homework, homework. Yes, the young people do find time to twitter, text, email, and otherwise entertain themselves, but, even so, they are pretty much caught up in our modern maelstrom of non-stop doing. I doubt if they have many thirty-second periods in their days when they do absolutely nothing, so I consider it their good fortune that they occasionally come upon these small waterholes of silence and serenity in English class. When a student has finished writing down an assignment, or when a break occurs between activities, perhaps there’s a moment or two when nothing’s happening for a few students save the faithful rising and falling of their lungs. Surely this is a gift to be cherished. This is not time to kill but to savor, like a little waterhole in the students’ anxious and hasty lives.
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