The Scarcity of Time

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The fifteen or so who were attending the dinner party talked amongst themselves discussing the current problems they faced in their choice of profession, education.

Being the only person not in education and feeling as if I had nothing intelligent to add to any of the conversations, I took my normal position at such events, leaning up against a nearby wall.

Becoming a wallflower, I tried my best to disappear, hoping no one would ask me a question that I didn’t know the answer to. That can happen in a room full of teachers. Better to keep silent and appear intelligent rather than open one’s mouth and reveal otherwise. And I was almost successful, then “it” happened. Someone walked over and started talking to me. That one person quickly turned into three!

As expected, I had nothing constructive to add to their conversation, no deep thoughts came from my position as wallflower. Yet, as I listened to the educators, it was easy to understand the problem they all struggled with.

You see, it was all too familiar to me. It was the same problem I wrestled with so long ago. The problem is scarcity of time. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it has no solution. At least none I’ve been able to find in the last forty years.

With the pandemic, there have been a lot of changes in education, but one situation hasn’t changed: no matter how much a teacher loves their chosen profession, they can’t be in two places at the same time. Since they can’t be everywhere, each of the teachers had to make a choice.

The art teacher who doesn’t do art. Jill loves art and for the last twenty-three years the art world has inspired her life, a life spent thinking about how to engage with her students each day. She showed me some of her art hanging in their house and she is super talented. Her students are fortunate to have her as a teacher and for inspiration.

Due to my recent venture into the art world, we quickly struck up a conversation. She asked me about my work with epoxy and paints, so I described the spare bedroom in our house we’re converting into an art studio for my new hobby.

Her reaction to what I had said wasn’t expected. She explained that she gives everything, all her creative energy, to her students. By the end of the workday, the creativity is all gone. A wonderful husband and children take the rest of her time and energy. She hopes when retirement comes in seven years, she too will have an art studio. But right now, there’s just not enough time.

The science teacher who doesn’t teach science. Laura is fascinated with the scientific world and taught for six years. When she got married, she put her job on hold for something she loved even more than science, having a family. As she spoke about her children, her eyes danced with joy. With her youngest now three years old, and the other two much older, it has been her intention to return to the classroom. But she realizes her children need her now more than ever.

There was sadness in her eyes as she admitted it would be years, if ever, before she could return to the classroom. She can’t be in two places at the same time. There isn’t enough time, and she had to choose between her two loves … family won.

The teacher’s teacher named Bill. Early to bed and early to rise, may make a person wise, but also makes a person very sleepy and tired. Bill walked over, joining the conversation with a yawn. It was past his normal 8 p.m. bedtime. He starts each day with an early morning run at 4 a.m. Why? I really never found out — guess he wants to beat the morning traffic.

During the day he travels around the state teaching teachers about economics. He loves his job, but doesn’t love the time it takes away from being with his family, so when he’s home, he spends all of it with them. Making that time the most enjoyable of all. He’s the best at what he does, but there’s one thing he can’t do – invent more time. As a teacher of economics, he knows time is a true scarcity.

During their entire conversation, I mainly listened. Listening is what wallflowers do best, and by doing so, I feel like I helped. Thanks to all of you who are in education, there’s never enough time to do everything you want or need to for your students or your family.

Perhaps that’s the answer; because it is scarce, people must make choices as to the best use of their time. And even when there is a trade-off, as with the three examples above, they are richer for them.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]