My sisters have told me multiple times that there is real karma in my career choice. I must admit that I really connect on a spiritual level with Calvin’s thoughts toward homework. There were many times as a student in my elementary career where I spent WAY more time planning how I could get out of homework, instead of just getting it done. I am sure we all know kids who lose track of time or underestimate the time it is going to take them to get an assignment done. It is clear that one of the greatest obstacles for students like this is that they lack an internal clock.
What exactly do I mean by internal clock? I specifically mean the skill of understanding what the passage of time feels like. They don’t really intuitively know what a minute, or 30 minutes, or an hour feels like. Research is clear that when children have weaknesses in understanding abstract concepts, anything from grasping a math concept to understanding how to create and maintain friendships can be difficult. One of the biggest challenges that students have to deal with on a daily basis is the abstract concept of the passage of time (how much time to complete an assignment, how long do I have to clean up, etc). How many times as a parent have I said, “10 more minutes of TV and then it is bedtime!” I realize now that I never actually taught my kids what 10 minutes was…I just told them and expected them to get it.
So how can we do this? Remember those ‘old fashioned’ clocks? Students need to learn to tell time using this dinosaur of technology. I would argue that teaching children to tell time on a digital watch, smartphone, or digital alarm clock is robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to experience time. We need our children to develop this internal clock.
In August when the Lower School worked with Sarah Ward on how to help develop executive functioning in students, she shared the importance of teachers and parents using an analog clock and a dry erase marker to help children experience the passing of time. She shared that she always has a wall clock for telling time and then she uses a ‘working clock’ to teach children how to develop their internal clock. Lower School faculty are working on developing this skill and I invite you to give it a try. Elizabeth Singletary, our LS Art Teacher, has incorporated a working clock in her classroom and says it has been “magical and life-changing.” In one color she shades in the time students have for working and then uses another color to shade in the time students have for cleaning up.
For younger students who are still learning their numbers, Sarah suggested a Wondertime Clock (which you can make yourself). The numbers are replaced with animals. The hands of the clock are also represented by animals: a hummingbird for the second hand, a turtle for the hour hand and a squirrel for the minute hand. This is genius for younger students because they understand that a turtle is slow and a hummingbird moves quickly and can then make the connection to how the different hands of a clock move.
I encourage you to try this at home as well. To get started, simply order a working clock and dry erase markers from Amazon. Then, pick something to try first — a bedtime routine, getting dressed in the morning, brushing teeth or even doing homework. This idea is so “magical and life-changing” that it almost makes me wish I had young children at home. Almost.
Stephanie Medcalfe is the Lower School Director at Cape Fear Academy.
Stephanie and her husband moved to Wilmington from Indianapolis, Indiana where she was the Assistant Principal for Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. Stephanie has taught in both elementary and middle schools and has been a Special Educator. She graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.E. in Educational Administration. She is responsible for the Lower School Faculty and the After School Program.