When I was younger my days seemed to last longer. I felt like I had more than 168 hours in a week.
Saturdays and summers were eternal - never feeling stuffed-to-the-rim-with activities and only mere moments of calmness, like nowadays. Instead they felt full and nutritional, like a well-cooked healthy meal that is savored over good reconnect conversations. Not swallowed fast and unchewed, eating for survival.
Yesterday I had my students create a list of their life goals - what do you want to do between now, and oh, say, ten years from now.
My list? (no particualr order)
~ Catch up on bills
~ Write my book, then bookS
~ Get healthy
~ Be more present in my kids' lives and my husband's life, as well as my own
~ Travel, anywhere and everywhere
~ Read more
~ Be a better teacher
Then I asked my students to write down the activities and things they actually do. How do they spend their days?
~ Grading and planning
~ Key Club
~ My Phone
~ Taking care of the house and bills
~ Eating, meal prep too
~ Homework with Kath
~ Reading about education and writing
~ Schlepping the girls around for school and activities
A few students said they spent time crying and napping. I thought they were kidding about the crying until the second class came in and a few said the same thing, then I felt really bad about shrugging off the first class. These kids have more going on than we may know, and possibly struggle with how to handle it all.
I noticed I didn't even have reading or writing on how I actually spent my time. How on earth will I write that book if I don't put my butt in the chair and write?
Next step was to reflect honestly on how much time (in minutes and hours) we actually spend on the ways we spend our time each day, then add to figure out how much time we spend each week.
Some came up with more hours than the actual 168 hours there are in a week, "Many of my things overlap!" Eish.
We then reflected on whether we were happy with how we spend our precious seconds and hours, and whether they were actually leading us towards our lofty Life Goals and Perception of How Our Lives Will Look in Ten Years.
I brought up that people say you are, or you become, what you are actually doing right now. We don't just wake up upon graduation or our ten year mark, like a butterfly from a cocoon, and voila! we are and we have the life we dreamt of. It's those day-to-day decisions of how we use those hours, that create that life we want.
We discussed how school and homework time is the dress rehearsal, the practice, before we go on stage, run out on the field of Life and what time we put in now shows up later. As well as how efficiently we use our time doing school and everything else.
Then we also discussed the reports I heard and the CNN report they watched. The report was a reporter asking high school students why they were always on their phones. The students said because people would post things about them and they had to defend themselves, plus, they needed to stay informed or they would feel like they were out of the loop. The CNN report we watched together showed a man who designed apps with the intent of making them addicting.
Between the crying and napping and the intense need for instant gratification (how many likes) and the need to be in touch at alllll times, their use of technology is different than mine, for the most part. There's not a lot of calmness or true reflection or true breathing time for any of us.
I use technology to:
~ check my school and home email
~ check social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
~ check news : NYT, NPR, CNN,WaPo
~ check banking
~ check text messages
I also see how friends are doing with surgeries, treatments, and children.
I also find new recipes (that I never seem to have time to try).
I find new ways to organize, handle stress and help inspire me.
I find support from other stroke moms, and overwhelmed teachers and moms.
I search out news.
My students feel an intravenous need and feed of self-value, self-confidence, self-reflection and sometimes even a moral compass (for good or bad) through the devices---those are things that I earned and found in much different ways when I was growing up.
When I was a kid if I wanted to talk to friends I had to ask if I could use the family phone, that was connected to wall, and tell my parents who I would be calling. If I wanted to avoid sitting at the kitchen table while talking, I could stretch the cord under the basement door and freeze on the stairs, but I always knew my family could hear me through the door or open the door at any moment. Oh and I could be told to get off the phone at any point, I had limited phone time. "You spent enough time on the phone, go do something."
My students have hundreds of unheard and unobserved interactions every day. Oh, except for those conversations snap-chatted, or screen shot, then posted on the un-erasable and unforgiving internet.
Their cores and morals, as well patience and understanding, are tested repeatedly with every interaction...in a bubble without (for the most part) adult supervision. A moment of weakness, unkindess, bad judgement is carved into documentation as if they were adult politicians of current day, as opposed to teenagers working their way through life's mistakes of youth.
And we are letting them. Mostly untethered, or with false tethers.
We let them have devices because "everyone else has them."
We trust they will be good, forgetting this medium has a long memory and mob-mentality.
We are also so busy on our own devices that it's become an easier way to communicate and connect, even with the people who live in our homes and hearts, while also staying busy with our own stuff.
I decided last weekend that my hands---like Granger's Grandfather (from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) needed to be doing more creating. My days were feeling too frantic and unproductive.
So. What now?
I didn't have devices growing up.
I read a lot I played SPUD on summer nights with the neighborhood kids. I caught lightening bugs. I rode my bike all over and knew my town. I wrote stories.
My boys (now 29 and 28) didn't grow up with devices, though they did have game systems. I limited their time at my house. They rode bikes, played ball games, street-wide hide-and-seek, built forts and god-only knows what else.
My girls (13 and 10) don't have devices and I'd like to keep it that way. They are usually at school (lots of free phones, or I email the school secretary (love that woman!) and ask if at some point in the day she can get a message to my daughter if plans changed from when I dropped her off in the morning before I pick her up) or they are with me, or another adult. I see their peers with phones in their hands as if their young intravenous feedings have begun---the books, the balls, the items noticed and picked up from the ground, forgotten as the technology begins to wire itself through their brains.
Me? I am absolutely ridiculous with my use. I know it. My phone is always on me (though as I write this on my front porch, it is upstairs, far away my hands which perpetually need 'just a second to check.' Yeah! Small steps!)
This person who lists her life goals as wanting to write, garden, exercise, travel, stay present found that when I was honest with how I spend MY 168 hours a week...there was a lot of wasted time reaching for and getting lost in 'just one second, let me check....'
So, one of my new goals is less phone-in-hand-time. I even hand-wrote my rough draft of this, with my arthritic thumb killing me, but a change needs to happen. If I want my kids---by birth and through school, to use their 168 hours more efficiently, with more joy and with a sense of purpose, than so must I.
I'll let you know how it goes. Want to join me?
I know this isn't going to solve the world issues or instantly make me a better teacher, mother or writer, but I am hoping it will put the spot light of my life back on doing what's important to me. Maybe the things that distract you are different things.It might not be your technology use like me or my students.
I am just tired of being controlled by my distractions.
Look, I just spend three writing this. I haven't written this long in a long time. I'd say it's a good start as I try to reclaim some of my 168 hours from a void.