Newsletter: Releasing the Boundaries of Time

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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This newsletter is one near and dear to my heart as this is a struggle that I have faced for most of my life — how do you make time for everything that is important? I am one of those people who loves making “to do lists” and also feels drained by them. It wasn’t the prioritization strategies or the size of paper I wrote the list on, or self-help tips that actually helped. It started by reflecting on the question, What is really important to me as a learner?

So we start this conversation with a TED Talk by Laura Vanderkam that I stumbled upon multi-tasking at 5:00am over this past holiday vacation: “How to gain control of your free time.” Early on she stated something that took my breath away:

Time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time but time will stretch to accomodate what we choose to put into it… Because everything I do, every minute I spend is my choice.

It’s not just what we choose to do with the time we have, but how present we are with those choices. This idea reminded me of a passage that I came across from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness.

There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes. If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” … Chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. If we can’t wash the dishes, chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.

I reflected on the choices I have been making and whether or not that lined up with my top priorities:

  • I wanted to expand my thinking by reading, sharing, and refining ideas with others.
  • I wanted to make the best use of time when working with others by considering what they need as much (if not more) than my agenda.

The blog posts are a reflection of what I have uncovered so far on my personal journey that hopefully can continue to become an interdependent one. First is my blog post that explores Dan Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and what implications it may have on school schedules. Second, Bena and I co-authored a post on how pauses can lead to deeper thinking. Finally, I encourage you to co-create with me in the last blog post where we can crowdsource time management strategies that can be replicated.

Some quick updates over the past week based on the newsletter on empathy and homework.

Many folks have reached out to me to see the document Bena Kallick, Art Costa, and I drafted on empathy. If you want to see the draft and take it out for a test drive as well as make it better, shoot me an email.

Shanna Bumiller reached out to share her reflections on Eric Chagala’s inspirational blog post on growing the talent of VIDA staff. I asked her to turn that into a blog post of her own in how an inspiration in one school can shed light on another. Check out her first blog post for Learning Personalized.

More ideas on homework flowing in that continue to expand my thinking on the broader question What is the purpose of homework? Nicole Dietrich sent along this link from Race to Nowhere that proposes guidelines for healthy homework. Trent Rasmussen shared a powerful flowchart and related resources that I invite you to study with me. This conversation is far from over.

Thank you for your continued feedback and engagement! I look forward to more!

All the best,
Allison

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