warpeaceI have read War and Peace: flying to and back from Hawaii. In The End of Absence Michael Harris reflects on how hard it is nowadays to find time to concentrate on something that scale. Constant interruptions, the need to check emails and messages just to prove you are loved and wanted and maybe even important keep us from devoting time to larger projects, from being absent in a digital world. It is a thoughtful insight into the demands on our attention the modern world holds.

 

And I think it has lessons for the classroom also. Do we over fuel our students? Spice them up and push themselves and us until there is no respite? Would they learn from our absence? What I mean is letting them get on with it rather than teachers (and often nowadays technology) being the focus of attention. Teachers obviously are responsible for organizing their classes but I do wonder if we take this too far: if our need to fill every minute with an “interesting” and “motivating” activity actually blocks out real participation and hampers our ability to stand back and observe what is happening in our classes and how students are reacting to our lesson plans.

 

Many years ago in the Sudan friends arrived at their house to find written on the wall outside by the door: “we came and met your absence”. My students pay too much money to find my absence, physically; but they might learn a lot more if I step back and allow them to take a more dominant role. It really is War and Peace all over again.

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