Hole in my Timetable

There is a small hole in my timetable.

Timetabling at a school with small groups of two three and four, and many students doing individual lessons is a fairly complex affair, not unlike Tetris: there are often little ad hoc arrangements with students, hours held over here and there, students are nudged between groups, teachers rotated, and weeks, one way or another, completed.

Paul Gavarni- Le Flâneur (1842)

Paul Gavarni- Le Flâneur (1842)

And so it turns out that, as I write, I have of necessity an anomalous free two hours at the back end of next week, and I do not yet have a plan to fill them. For most of the year it would be nothing strange, since the teaching load is lighter and the week more porous. But in the middle of August, it is a small blessing. A chance to do something else.

So, what will I do? Two hours would be just about enough for me to get home and have some lunch and a bit of peace and quiet, but barely. A better use of my time might be to go to the university library, or a museum, and treat myself to a bit of learning and culture. Or I could do some chores – get my haircut, go to the dentist, buy some socks. That sort of thing. Or I could simply stay in the school and take care of some administration, prepare some lessons, perhaps find a quiet spot and catch some zeds.

All good ideas. Who knows what will happen? Perhaps in the end I will teach someone anyway. But you know you are busy when you start to fantasise about going to the dentist or falling asleep in the stationery cupboard (and I should, out of humility, recall that I have just come back from two-weeks’ holiday; but then, aren’t holidays a form of busyness in themselves?).

I often talk to my students about work pressure (theirs, not mine) and the importance of allowing your mind to wander from time to time. The mind-wandering state activates regions of the brain, known collectively as the default task network by psychologists, which have to do with a sense of identity. Work too hard, the implication goes, and you forget who you are.

I am not working too hard, and am in little danger of forgetting who I am. But even considering the possibility of a spot of aimless wandering around town when I might otherwise be working feels, already, beneficial.


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