While we were visiting our older son and his wife during our Thanksgiving holiday we noticed that their across-the-street neighbor turned his Christmas lights on Friday at dusk.

We first noticed them at around 4:00 pm as he was checking everything (quite a lot to check!) and adjusting here and there. By 5:00 pm or so it was dark enough for the lights to really stand out and sparkle. I found myself thinking:

* the effect of the holiday lights is more dramatic when it’s truly dark
* a full moon could lessen the contrast
* a timer could be quite handy because you could have it automatically set and not have to remember when the sun has fully set

And as I had these details running through my mind, I stopped myself and thought, “What does it matter?” When is timing really important? Does it matter that the holiday lights are on at dusk and they are still competing with the light in the sky? If Friday was an unusual day because he was just setting up, perhaps, all of the days after (when I wouldn’t be there to watch!) could be timed perfectly to take full advantage of the contrast of the dark sky.

I found my mind shifting to the classroom – how is timing important?

What makes for good timing? Is “perfect timing” achievable? How do we find the right time during a class period to present concepts or activities to maximize the effect? Is contrast important? Is set-up important? How do we know when we’ve hit our perfect stride? Is our (the teacher’s) perfect stride also our students’ perfect stride? Do they ever happen at the same time?

I often reflect on how a class may have seemed to me (since, after all, the teacher is a learner just as the students are — I should reflect on what happened to me during the class period). I try to reflect on how a class may have seemed to the students but how can I really know unless I ask them. Is there time? There should be.