Many Lower School educators, across the country, are grappling with the question of how much is too much for young children? As a result, we also wonder if we over–program our young while constantly questioning the appropriate pace for young children during the school day. As I have been thinking about these things, I have found myself once again revisiting a snippet from Maria Shriver’s 2012 commencement speech delivered at the University of Southern California Annenberg. Her advice to the graduates was to always take a “moment to pause.” Shriver said, “pausing allows you to take a beat – to take a breath in your life.”
This advice should not be taken lightly, particularly when thinking about the pace in which young children are asked to function each day. I believe “allowing a moment of pause” is significant and vital to the long-term academic and social-emotional health of our students. The ability to pause is fundamental to academic success because it gives students the opportunity to process, reflect upon, and try out the information given to them. This “pause time” is essential to their academic development and social-emotional health for several reasons:
It gives students time to observe and explore their world while building on the conceptual ideas that they encounter or are exposed to;
It gives students time to interpret information (taking in new data while integrating prior knowledge; making connections that can then be applied to various situations and experiences);
It gives students time to share feelings and ideas, and to seek feedback;
Equally important, pause time also gives parents, teachers, and caregivers a sense of what a child knows and where they need additional help deciphering or integrating the data.
None of this is possible without the ability to simply “pause” throughout the day. I believe that it is essential to the success of a generation of young children who are being pushed to move from one activity/subject to another before they are ready to do so. Given the demands on us to teach our curriculum, we must give children time to process the things that they are learning. It means we must become more flexible in our schedules during the day as well as after school. It also means that we have to remember that while solving problems, reading, and writing are important skill sets; it is equally important for young children to spend time exploring, playing, sharing, and resting (even if resting occurs while listening to a good book). There is no question in my mind that our students will meet us where we need them to be. However as we think about the overall health of our students, let’s always remember to add a few moments throughout their day, so that they can simply “pause.” tlb