Saint Ignatius High School

Time-Out! Wait Time for Equity and Complexity

Written by Thomas Yarcusko from the Department of English.

This post is part of the Center for Ignatian Pedagogy's quarterly blog "Perspectives from the Classroom" featuring innovative, creative, and inspiring perspectives on teaching and learning from our exceptional faculty and staff.

Time-Out! Wait Time for Equity and Complexity

One strategy I use in almost every single one of my classes is something we educators call “wait time.” But I take wait time to the next level. In a junior-level English class, discussing complicated texts like Brave New World or Frankenstein requires a significant amount of time dedicated to thinking, so I structure my class to do exactly that: after prompting students with some dynamic question, students must—before any writing or speaking is allowed—close their eyes and spend a period of time engaged in deep thought. At the beginning of the year, students usually spend 30-60 seconds engaged in such thinking, but by the end of the year, they’re challenged to use their cognitive powers for up to four or five minutes. Sounds almost silly, right?

I employ this strategy so frequently because not only is it easy to employ, but because it pushes students; it sets them up for success in many different ways. The class conversations we have as a consequence of engaging in simple, extended thinking yields college-level, seminar-like dialogue. Moreover, this strategy evens the classroom’s playing field, giving every student the time and space he needs to ramp up his responses in increasing complexity. 

In a world in which focus and attention span clearly wane as iPhones and smart watches continually notify us and prohibit our sustained cognitive faculties, building-in time to retrain students is the first—and, I would argue, necessary–step toward a robust, liberal arts curriculum. 

To this day, students seek me out to tell me how they realize that they’ve “never really thought before [this English class]”. I see the results in their writing and their annotation, but I mostly see it in their dialogue with each other: Ignatian Men stumbling, discovering, and pondering the most interesting issues of the day.