Saturday, March 16, 2013

Time On Task

St. Augustine, in his famous work Confessions, theorizes that the only time that actually exists is the present moment. The past has already occurred and the future has not yet arrived; the only time we have is now. And now that it's not now anymore, there is a new now to take its place. This now, however, will quickly be replaced by yet another now, and another, and another.

To quote Blessed Mother Teresa, "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

To paraphrase her, "We have only right now. Let us be present."

St. Augustine posed this theory of time as a way to encourage others against the temptation of sin. You can resist temptation, somewhat easily, for a single moment. If we make ourselves truly present in the present moment, we free ourselves from all of the memories of past mistakes and the anxieties of future failures. Being good for an entire lifetime, year, month or even day can be somewhat daunting. Being good for a moment is utterly manageable.

Be good now. Don't worry about how good you were yesterday or that you'll have to be good again later. Be good now. Right now. Focus on the present moment and making the most of it. The past means nothing and the future lacks a guarantee. Do good now.

As a dad, I try to take advantage of all of the moments I have with my kids. From the moment I arrive home until they go to bed, I do all that I can to be present to them. Play with them. Read to them. Interact with them. Change diapers. Make food. Clean up. I'll always have work, even if I worked all the time. My daughters will only be 2 and 4 months once. I'll never get back the opportunity to be with them at this age.

Besides, tomorrow lacks a guarantee.

As an educator, a direct correlation exists between students' time-on-task and their academic achievement. The more that a student is engaged, the more they are likely to learn. In schools there are three ways to consider time as it relates to learning: allocated time, engaged time, and academic time ( Allocated time refers to the amount of time set aside for particular subjects. Given that things like transitions, classroom management procedures and other lulls exist in a classroom, the allocated time is the largest amount of the three. Engaged time categorizes the time that students spend engaged in learning. Finally, academic time signals the amount of learning taking place. It considers both the quality of the active as well as its difficulty. To say that an 8th student engaged in a word search is actively engaged may be true. To say that they are actually learning anything is a stretch. There is little academic value here; furthermore, a word search lacks an appropriate amount of challenge to be classified as academic time. Academic time, therefore, ends up being the smallest time frame within schools. Maximize academic time and you maximize learning.

Every moment has value within a classroom. Every decision must be purposeful. Every action intentional. Every "now" used to its fullest potential.

To circle back to St. Augustine, the more that we are actively engaged in being good during the present moment, the more likely we are to be successful at being good. Your Lenten promise is only a burden when you consider the number of days still left until Easter. The spiritual life is only daunting when you consider the magnitude of eternity. Engage right now. Maximize every moment. Do good now.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. We have only right now.

Right now is the most important moment of our lives.

It's time to begin.