Audaces fortuna juvat

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Value of Time

Posted by C Moon on March 22, 2008

Last Thursday I was under detention for an hour for the first time in my whole life. Days earlier, during the free time after the lecture had been over, my classmate asked me about the stock market, and I asked back “주식시장 (ju-shik-shi-jang, meaning stock market in Korean)” My lapse into uttering a single Korean word, cost me an hour, as it was a clear violation of the EOP (English Only Policy). Strict enforcement of the EOP is necessary for KIS, since KIS is an international school following American curriculum while the majority of the students are either Korean Americans or Korean descendants. Last Thursday, as the penalty of the violation, I had to sit in a classroom for an hour, being required not to do anything. The one hour made me think about the value of time.

Casual calculation indicates that an hour is 0.60 percent of a week, 0.15 percent of a month, and 0.012 percent of a year. What’s the big deal of being required not to do anything for an hour when it’s less than a percent of a week?

The casual calculation has a serious flaw. It considers an hour in the context of the total hours of a week, month, or year and understates the weight of an hour. To properly measure the value of an hour, we should exclude all the pre-occupied time, such as sleeping, working, eating, or commuting. Below is a brief summary of my sunk time on a weekday:

hour(s) / day
7 for eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene
1 for the AP Biology morning session
7 for regular school classes
2 for theater
1 for commuting
1.5 for practicing Taekwondo
0.5 for typing books for the visually handicapped
1 for calling, text messaging, and e-mailing
total sunk time: 21 hours

The free time on a regular weekday amounts to 3 hours only. Similar calculation leads to 5 hours per day for a weekend (well, after taking longer sleep hours into account). These calculations do not include the time of doing homework (throughout the week, more on weekends) or participating in non-regular semi-mandatory events (mostly on weekends). It is quite tricky to include homework hours, as from time to time, I am able to finish it within the short free hours sometimes while other times I have to reduce my sleeping time to complete all the homework. Anyways, the following is the weight of an hour in the context of free time, which includes the time for homework.

The 15 free hours of weekdays and the 10 free hours on weekends total 25 free hours per week. That is, 25 hours a week, 100 a month, and roughly 1300 a year. Hence, an hour is:

4.0 percent of a week
1.0 percent of a month
0.077 percent of a year

Now, an hour is more valuable. Taking the time for homework into account, an hour is extremely valuable!

I see many students going to bed as late as 3 or 4 am in the late night or the early morning (it is hard to judge which expression is proper), and staying up all night when there are tests. In that respect, my personal opinion on the penalty of detention is that one hour should be both time for reflection and for productivity. For example, during the hour, detained students may be penalized by requiring to hand-write a portion of classic or historical works or to write a short essay on social/moral issues or to read a light but educational book such as Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit or to participate in a community service. I personally think that these alternative penalties will better achieve the punitive and educational objectives of the detention while not damaging the value of one hour.

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Photo Credits: (1) “The Passage of Time” by ToniVC on Flickr

(2) “Bombay Clocks” by Natmandu on Flickr

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3 Responses to “Value of Time”

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  2. Kerry Bryne said

    While I commend you upon the quality of your reflections during detention, I question the practice of detention for home language use. Let me explain where I am coming from. I taught English as a Foreign Language to Mococcan high school students. I also taught English as a Second language to Hmong refugees from Laos, Mexican immigrants, and Bosinian refugees. In addition, I served as chairperson for the Wisonsin (USA) State Superintendent’s Council on ESL and Bilingual Education. I would never penalize a person for using his/her home language. A person’s home language is part of his/her personal identity. If you punish a person for using her/his home language, you are placing less value upon it than the target language. This action is ethnocentric, and, to me, unacceptable.

    When I went into the Peace Corps going to Kenya, we has a “no English” rule for 13 hours a day, six days a week. We were supposed to speak Swahili. If we happened to make a mistake and speak English, we were informed of it (in Swahili) and then moved on with life. I found that to be an acceptable approach, one that was instructive but also respected my own culture. As a result, I learned Swahili better than any other foreign language that I studied.

    You may have a different cultural respective in terms of rules and consequences that are acceptable. I wanted to share my perspective with you.


  3. Kerry,

    I agree with your perspective that keeping one’s mother tongue and cultural identity is valuable to oneself and one’s society. I think my school enforces such policy because most teachers are Americans, while the majority of students have Korean origin. Teachers and students may need a common medium of communication for everyone to be involved in active conversation.

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment!


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