Time May Not Be Money, But It Can Be Well Spent

Time May Not Be Money, But It Can Be Well Spent


Adversity is a teacher.

As Homer said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”

Adversity is the whetstone that sharpened my favorite leadership tool, time.  Time is nothing to waste but is a commodity to be given willingly, shared frequently. It should never be taken by anyone lightly.

I am a stickler for time. I am a clock watcher and always to first one to arrive at a party or almost anywhere else. (Thanks, mom!) In the classroom, I gave instructions like, “You will have 7.3 minutes to complete this task before we check for understanding,” and it was exactly 7 minutes and 18 seconds before the check for understanding. Time is a classroom management tool, which is deeply ingrained in my personality.

Life, Death and Time

Over the course of my life, I have experienced two near-death episodes. The first occurred in college when I almost drowned shooting rapids without floatation gear. I was fortunate enough to be with a lifeguard. He recognized I was in trouble and dove off a cliff into the river, then dragged my coughing being to safety. Though sobering, I quickly placed it in the past. The second experience would leave an indelible impression which still lingers.

I entered the hospital for what the doctor described as a simple procedure. I was to sleep that night and would be home by the afternoon on the morrow. Instead, things went terribly wrong.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the procedure did not go well the next morning. The fragments I remember were people saying my blood pressure was dropping severely, then there was terrific burning in both arms as potassium was shot into them. I do remember my arms being strapped down, preventing me from ripping out the IVs. The doctor said there was a great possibility I would die, then things faded away. I lost consciousness until my wife told me I was going to be airlifted to Salt Lake. My reply was, “Let me die here, I don’t want to die in Salt Lake.” She cried.

I have no memories of what happened next, or for the next five days. When I arrived at the hospital I was in terrible shape. My wife recalled that an intern climbed on top of me and started doing chest compressions before they shipped me to the ICCU. They placed me in a medically induced coma until they could figure out what happened and how I came to be in this critical condition. No records followed me on this journey, only my wife.

Five days later I was awakened as they thought they had a clue about my condition. The pericardium had hardened, restricting my heart function by 70%, causing undue stress on this vital organ. My wife was in the room and I received a phone call from a friend. I do remember telling him I was okay and I would be out of the hospital in a couple of days. I had no idea I had lost five days of my life—time I would never get back.

Time Is An Essential Component of Leadership

If, as Marzano says, “Every great leader is clearly teaching and every great teacher is leading,” then time is a central component of my leadership style and this experience heightened that awareness. I never wanted to hear someone say, “That was a waste of time,” after a presentation or a class I taught. Time, where we all can share our experiences and insights, is the most valuable commodity a teacher-leader has and it is not to be wasted.

My last near-death experience solidified every effort I have made in the classroom. Making every minute count towards the learning effort of my charges became the focus of my academic life. It made me a better teacher-leader, a better facilitator and a better human being. I learned definitively how precious this commodity is and how powerful it can be when shared in a meaningful and purposeful manner. Being late is not an option.

As a retired classroom professional, I feel I have five years of credibility in the world of the classroom. Time has become a profound gift to receive and to give. The value of time working with professionals to provide a quality educational experience for all concerned is never time wasted. It is time well spent.

Anyone who has worked in education knows teachers are not herd beings. They are not quite a collection of independent contractors united by a parking lot either, but teachers are not easily gathered in one place to appreciate a singular experience. Any quality leader knows when these independent, thinking professionals gather, their time needs to be honored and your time needs to be given from the heart. It is what makes an authentic learning experience and time well spent. 


Photo by Pitiphothivichit, Canva


John Tierney is the 2016 Nevada Teacher of the Year.

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