Be Careful with People’s Time


It’s important to be careful with people’s time.

Do people waste your time? I don’t just mean time spent waiting for your check at a restaurant, although that’s part of it. I’m mostly talking about a lack of respect for the idea that when people give you their time, they’re giving you their lives for that moment.

You may be wondering what this has to do with giftedness.

Gifted kids (and adults) resent time being wasted (who doesn’t?), and I would argue that they resent this at a deeper level than more typically able people. Why? Because their minds move so quickly – or can – that ten minutes wasted to anyone else is like half an hour in gifted years. That may be an over-simplification, but I’m sticking with it. I don’t mean this to sound arrogant – it’s just the math of the gifted mind.

The wisdom of my mom related to other people’s time

My mother was in Toastmasters once upon a time (my mother is a truly exquisite public speaker), and she told me when I was maybe thirteen that when you are speaking to a group of fifty people for an hour, you’d better make sure that what you have to say is worth fifty hours of time because that’s what you’re using.

Think about that: multiply the time it’s taking by how many people and it’s that many hours of human life. Is it worth it?

This has been the guiding principle behind my own speaking style, but experience has taught me that I need to expand this. For gifted learners, the more teachers streamline their instruction and classroom procedures, the less time they waste – which has to be good. The more teachers try to focus on the essential elements necessary in homework practice, the more time kids have to think and feel and be.

The challenge

So my challenge is to try to identify small ways in which you may be inadvertently wasting others’ time and try to correct it. Think about my mom’s golden rule, and make sure that if you’re taking an hour of thirty students’ time, you’re giving thirty hours’ worth of instruction for it!

Make sure you’re moving quickly enough for your quick-minded students, and if they move more quickly than you can reasonably go, let them move ahead at their own pace without a leash.

In this picture, you can see one of the really important things gifted kids can do with their time if it’s not being wasted by adults…This is my foreign exchange student, Malte, reading in the backyard on an exceptionally delicious winter day when  he didn’t have five hours of homework.

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