Hurry Sickness

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We are hurrying, running and paying enormous amounts of money to keep connected 24 hours a day. All these new time saving devices have created the world’s newest billionaires but we still have no more time. We run from place to place planning to catch up but we never do , we just buy a new electronic machine that will process 50 pages instantly or a multitude of  messages simultaneously. The concept of ‘Hurry Sickness’ is described by many people but the actual concept is written about by Dr. Anne McGee-Cooper. She suggests” modern times have brought certain maladies that might be though of as disease of technology: Radiation poisoning ( Marie Curie’s legacy); carpal tunnel syndrome ( descendant of scriveners’s palsy). A unique case is jet lag…. (Gleick) psuedo ADD ( Hallewell), a multitude of other stress related illnesses and of course ‘hurry sickness.’

In the last 25 years of the 20th century we have increased our pace to such a speed that any person hearing the concept ‘hurry sickness’ barely needs it explained. As adults we know that this is a malady that affects our every day lives but what about our children. We are told by researchers this actually is a kind of environmental hazard that can and is affecting our children, their brains and their ability to be creative,  to play independently, to cope with stress and ultimately how they learn and process information.

Recently I have noticed an increasing number of news reports, documentaries, investigative reports or magazine articles that address the state of our hurried lives. The  state of our children’s lives and actual brains are being dramatically influenced.  In regard to this frenzy of time poverty  and  there are in fact  universal concerns that are becoming more dramatically evident.“ “Chronic stress cannot only accelerate a host of illnesses but can also cause damage in parts of the brain that are associated with memory…..a direct instance of bodily ills affecting cognitive abilities.” (Conlan p5)

“What we are all beginning to conclude that the bad environments that more and more children are being exposed to are, indeed, creating an epidemic of violence,” Kruesi said(Dr. Markus J. Kruesei, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Illinois Medical school’s Institute for Juvenile Research) “Environmental events are really causing molecular changes in the brain… It is frightening to think that we may be doing some very dreadful things to our children” (Kotuluk p85)

Researchers are warning us about the pace we are moving and especially what it is doing to our children’s minds. In her books “Endangered Minds” and “Failure to Connect” Dr. Jane Healy was one of the first to bring this growing phenomenon to our attention ( over 20 years ago) . She asks “Could I explain to non-scientists that changing lifestyles could be altering our children’s brains in subtle and critical ways” (Healy p9 EM) and then goes on to explain “hurried from one activity to the next may get lots of sensory input but be short changed on the time consuming process of forming associations and networks to understand and organize meaningfully” (Healy p74-5 EM)  “ Glick in his book further explains … to be grid locked or tarmacked is to be stuck in place, our fastest engines idling all around, as time passes and blood pressures rise… We are in a rush. We are making haste. A compression of time characterizes the life of the century just closed and the new century we live in. Airport gates are minor intensifiers of the lose-not-a-minute anguish of our age… The DOOR CLOSE button in elevators, so often a placebo, with no function but to distract for a moment those riders to whom ten seconds seems an eternity. Speed-dial buttons on telephones: do you invest minutes in programming them and reap your reward in tenths of a second? Remote controls: their very existence, in the hands of a quick reflexed, multitasking, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding citizenry, has caused an acceleration in the pace of films and television commercials”(Glick pg. 103) We move our children from one activity to another, eating in the car, changing their clothes in the car and resting in the car as they join brothers or sisters who are going to different activites ( ie baseball, ballet , karate and science fair on the same evening)

We live in a society that continually bombards our senses. “Surprisingly, almost anything can cause physical changes in the brain:sounds, sights, smells, touch-like little carpenters- all can quickly change the architecture of brain, and sometimes they can turn into vandals… ‘The new thing is that the brain is very dynamic,’ said Dr. Robert Post, chief of the national Institute of Mental Health’s biological psychiatry branch. ‘At any point in this process you have all these potentials for either good or bad stimulation to get in there and set the micro structure of the brain…’ Post and his colleagues were startled to find that outside stimulation can permanently alter the function of brain cell genes. Stress and drugs…for instance, can produce biochemical changes that directly affect the function of some key brain-cell genes, in effect laying down permanent, maladaptive behavior patterns…Faced with the new evidence about how the brain develops and functions, many scientists are concluding that society is wasting a tremendous amount of the brain power of its young, and creating a lot of unnecessary problems-including crime,aggression, and depression-later on in their lives” (Kotuluk intro ix)

“The brain is not static. It is dynamic and it constantly shapes and reshapes. We create connections as we grow. Our brain is moulded by the world around us. Experiences constantly shape our brain. Suzuki points out that the brain is so vulnerable to external influences like stress, anger, hatred, or prejudice that we might wish we had more ways to buffer it. Life’s beauty and life’s tragedies profoundly alter our brain. It is both an exciting and grave picture to ponder, however,scientists are now giving us hard data to prove the saying, violence begets violence.”(David Suzuki The Brain)

In school as well as at home the concept of TIME !!!!! needs to be addressed.  We need to slow down and give our children time!!!!!

As we move children along from place to place or in school we move students from one task to another so quickly they do not have time to let information connect or synthesize.

One of the recurring concerns expressed by students who have had some difficulty in learning in the problem of time BUT  I have found over many, many years that if time is left up to any student ( honor student or student with learning concerns) that their learning dramatically improves and many  so called learning problems are actually intensified or even  just  the result of a lack of time. There is never enough time to complete assignments and often students become overwhelmed by the lack of time in their classes and they eventually just give up. They find themselves getting further and further behind and eventually they just stop. They need an environment where they can just stop, catch up and take the time they need to overcome or master a certain learning task. When students control the time they need to spend on a project we found they remained connected and engaged in the project they would normally have great difficulty working on. They retained a sense of accomplishment and could be proud of the project they produced. With the adjustment of the time factor alone, many students were transformed into very competent learners almost immediately. The pressure, time constraints cause, was reduced or eliminated and they could concentrate on their involvement or interest in the subject matter rather than meet some  artificial barrier of completion. Students could complete an entire project rather than presenting substandard or rushed material.

The other benefit of this flexible use of time was that students could complete courses early or could spread a class out into the next year without fear of having to repeat the entire course. This is a tremendous bonus for older students. It helps maintain a sense of hope and encourages a forward looking spirit. In the past I have found with only the adjustment or elimination of time constraints for students they were afforded the opportunity to become active participants in their own learning and this lead them to the next essential component which was self pacing and more self-directed learning thus reaching that elusive goal of independent learner ( which all teachers and parents hope for)

Researchers tell us:

“Remember that students are not expected to master complex challenges like reading or writing in a few lessons. The same holds for the many sides of reflective intelligence ( ie how to study, learn concepts, use memory  skills accurately etc. etc. etc), whether they are taught in separate courses or through infusions into the handling of the regular subject matters. Currently, it is rare that a student experiences more than one such intervention for a few weeks. There is little chance to gauge cumulative impact.” (Perkins p210)

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“Time is a vital aspect of the control that exists in schools. There are bells, timed tests, and due dates- unspoken guidelines about what is an acceptable amount to time to spend on a given task. Perhaps more than anything else, the precision and arbitrariness of time represents the imposing forces of school regulations”
(Cherkes-Julkowski, Sharp, Stolzenberg,1997,140)

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“Provide ‘settling time’…The best type of reflection time is not seatwork or homework, but rather a walk, stretching, rote classroom chores (i.e., clearing the bulletin board or hanging art), doodling, or merely resting. Breaks, recess, lunch and going home can also be considered downtime. Ideally, ‘brain-breaks’ ought to be built into your lesson plans every twenty minutes or so. The more intense the new learning, the more reflection time is necessary.” (Jensen 2000 p124

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