The Captivity of Activity

We live in a fast-paced world.  From fast food, to high speed internet, to “on demand” television – our society races through each day in a flurry of activity.  We exalt those who have an “active lifestyle.”  We are expert multi-taskers.  We even text and surf the web while we walk!  And while we may accomplish a lot (and this is debatable), the fact is that we are busier and more exhausted than ever before.

© 2013 Andrew Reid Wildman. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#18).

© 2013 Andrew Reid Wildman. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#18).

My daughter recently spent the weekend with a friend while my husband and I were out of town.   Since she’s not normally homesick, I was surprised to receive a tearful phone call from her.  When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “Mom!  These people are so busy!  We haven’t stopped all weekend. I just want a little quiet time!”

This sentiment reflects a common problem our students face.  They are busy.  Many are involved in church activities, sports, and the arts.  They do homework in the car between activities, grab a take-out dinner, and fall into bed.  There’s little time to sit and talk, much less engage in thoughtful reflection.

The same frenzy is often felt in our classrooms.  In the rush to get through assigned curriculum, we often become slaves to our schedules.  We think every lesson has to be fun and full of activity.  We don’t have time for meaningful conversations with our students (or colleagues) because we’re in a hurry to get on to the next thing on our to-do list.

We have surrendered to the captivity of activity.

How can we, as teachers, engage our students in meaningful classroom experiences without falling into bondage to activity?

Reflect on our priorities.  What is our goal?  Are we teaching a list of objectives or are we teaching students?

Recognize our students’ needs.  Are they weary?  Discouraged?  Frustrated?  We can’t address what we do don’t take time to discover.

Respond to students.  When we sense that our students are frustrated, overwhelmed, or exhausted, how we respond has a big impact on them.  Do we get frustrated in return?  Do we start itemizing all we have to do?  A wise teacher takes the time to listen, help students gain perspective, and offer practical support.

Restructure our schedules.  Make room for “down time” in the classroom.  Students can’t sustain being “on” for hours on end, and neither can teachers.  Our plans should include scheduled and structured quiet time for students to read, stretch, work independently, reflect, and interact with us.

Redeem the time.  Using class time wisely frees up our schedules to include valuable quiet moments like reading aloud, listening to music, or working puzzles.

Psalm 46:10 exhorts us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  As we lead our students toward a deeper understanding of God and His world, it seems appropriate for us to start by helping them learn how to just “be still.”

What do you do in your classroom to shake off the shackles of activity?  

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Marty Reed teaches at Veritas School, a classical Christian school in Richmond, Virginia. Her twenty years of teaching, coupled with her duties as pastor's wife and mother of two, provide her with excellent insights to share with FOCUS readers.

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  • Edward Earwood

    Marty, you are on target. We live in a Christian culture that measures success based on “doing;” the more we do, the more we are valued. I am afraid that we often fail to notice that God’s economy is more about “being” than “doing.” Of course, we are to be “doers” and there is work to do, no doubt. However, being “still” and “knowing God” are not frowned upon in Scripture–rather exalted. Thanks for some excellent thoughts.

  • Marcia McConnell

    Seems like my fourth graders need that fast paced teacher due to all the fast paced games which occupy their time. I find students more engaged in the lesson as the pace and activity keep moving. There are down times during the day. Their favorite is the DEAR time where they get lost in a book. They seem refreshed afterward, ready to tackle the next lesson.

  • Martha Earwood Reed

    Marcia, my students love DEAR time, too!