Despite the Rolling Stones’ proclamation that “time is on my side, yes, it is,” there are many of us who would beg to differ.  And there are many who would flat out say that time is not only not on our side but combats our best efforts to take control of our lives and our situations.  The many teachers that I have spoken to over the past 16 years seem to be aligned with the latter, fighting feverishly to meet all that is expected of them within the confines of a given school day.  In the process of this battle, they end up compromising their own experience thus inadvertently sabotaging their best efforts to create the most meaningful experiences for their students.  So, is there a way that we can forge an alliance with time using it as an ally in our daily teaching lives?

Only when we identify what really matters in our schools do we hold the power to shape our experiences and shift how time is used. In our current model of education, it is clear that what matters most may not be in line with improving one’s actual experience. This means that we have to reassess what it is that takes priority in our classrooms and schools. If so much of learning takes place through experience, it seems logical to place an individual’s experience with her education at the front of the list of priorities. By organizing time around a learner’s experience with learning and learning content, the opportunity for the individual to enjoy learning becomes more feasible.  This increased attention to the individual enables a learner to develop more positive associations with learning in general and hopefully connect learning with flow.

Take a moment and imagine yourself as a learner alongside your students or colleagues.  What is the learning experience you desire?  How is time being used to create this experience?  What do you want to feel whilst you are engaged, and how do you want to feel about it when the experience has concluded?  Generally speaking, people want to feel as though their time was well spent, both valued and valuable: time was effectively used, individuals were able to challenge/engage themselves throughout, a sense of purpose was quickly established if not present from the onset, and a feeling of contentedness/excitement resonates as the time drew to a close.   If this is the reality we want for ourselves, we must also ask what reality do our students crave and what is the best way to help them experience learning in this way.  Though this may be a daunting endeavor, particularly due to our inability to control experiences outside of school, there are elements we can give attention to that directly impact a learner’s overall experience.

  1. Pedagogical Philosophy: How does the design of curriculum act as a means to invite flow into our classrooms and schools?  What design models are being used and how are students involved in the design?
  2. The Power Paradigm: How do our relationships act as a key to unlocking the flow potential within our environment?  How do our values influence the balance of power? 
  3. Structural Staples: How does the way we engage students in learning allow flow to be a part of their school experience?  What routines and structures are in place to support students’ ability to find a state flow?
  4. Environmental Parameters: How is the physical design of the learning space used to further an individual’s flow experience?  Does the space encourage students to engage with flow through different personal interactions?

Only after we as educators acknowledge that one’s learning experience is paramount in the design and delivery of education for the future, can we shift the focus from content mastery to content experience. By changing our focus, we can also change how time is used and maybe begin to feel that time is in fact on our side.