Free time isn’t free

I’m a teacher. Years ago, I had an excellent assistant principal who said, as the year wound down, “Free time isn’t free. Someone always pays for it.”

The message was: keep kids engaged and learning all the way to the end. Most of the time, the teachers are the ones who pay for the free time. Not always the teacher who gives it. (Every now and then there’s a class that can have some free time, behave appropriately, reengage when it’s time, and not continuously ask afterwards when they’re going to have free time again. Those classes are rare indeed.)

Do something meaningful with the time, as often as possible.

We so often kill time then later lament that it’s gone. Even if it’s not always in the context we’d prefer, use it while we have it.

At this point in the school year (for me, four student days of school left), we’re not playing instruments any more. We’ve gotten them all cleaned (whew!), we’ve gotten them all accounted for (whew!), and there’s time left. (So much better to have time left than to run out of time.)

We play music-based games. I’ve done the 90-second rule meditation from the Calm app with some classes. We do self-reflections and planning for next year. There are other things we could do if there was even more time, but we’re rarely that efficient at inventory. Some things that used to be end-of-the-year fun are now part of my regular curriculum.

We (teachers) spend a lot of time complaining that we don’t have enough instructional time. (And we don’t, based on mandates. That’s a whole separate train of thought that I won’t tangent into today.) Here’s some time that’s unaccounted for. Use it to do something interesting and fun that The Standards don’t permit the rest of the year.

Keep kids engaged. Keep yourself engaged. And may the force be with you.

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