When working in the secondary school system, life is dictated by bells and passing periods. Class periods are set for a very specific amount of time; however, anyone who has worked in a secondary school setting knows that each class period’s timing is different for a multitude of reasons. Some obvious reasons are that your class period is cut in half for kids to eat lunch, the last period of the day loses five minutes for school-wide announcements, or there is a fire drill/alarm, tornado drill, etc…. As a teacher, when working with six different classes a day, I would learn which classes could stay ‘on task’ and which classes had students who disrupted class enough to slow down all of the pertinent information I needed to share with my kids. This is where ‘Cushion Time’ factors into your class presentations. (This works for anyone making class presentations—Not just teachers….)
Because the timing of classes can vary from class period to class period, the best-prepared presenter builds in ‘Cushion Time’. An example would be that if a class period is 45 minutes long, you should set up your entire ‘dog-and-pony show’ to last anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes. This way, you have built in ‘Cushion Time’ for any interruptions like the ones listed above or just for unruly students.
Once you have done that, you need to figure out how to fill in the ‘Cushion Time’ for those classes that flow, where students are taking care of business and tasks are accomplished. This is the coolest part of working with teens: Being prepared for filling in the ‘Cushion Time’. Primarily, never let on that you are filling time. Instead, you must incorporate your ‘Cushion Time’ with real-life stories that are relevant to the day’s topic throughout the class period.
Personal stories are awesome for multiple reasons: #1. They fill up the time with relevant stories. #2. The kids THINK they have gotten you off on some tangent and off topic when in reality you are teaching the same concept, just through a real-life personal story, and #3. This is an amazing way to connect with kids by relating (appropriate) stories of your own and showing kids how you can relate to not only the theme of the lesson, but also to the issues they are facing every day. It builds strong relationships, especially with the kids who need Mentors, when kids recognize genuine examples from your own experiences that connect with their own lives.
Kids will learn early on that if they want to hear your stories (and it helps if those stories are entertaining), they have to behave and be on task as an entire class. Building in that ‘Cushion Time’ can make for some powerful bonding with some kids, but it also helps alleviate some of the interruptions (expected or otherwise) that may occur during your class period. This is a win/win for all involved: You get all of your important instructional information fit into the class time, and kids have a chance to get to know you better and get to know how well you can identify with them as teenagers. It builds an awesome foundation for Teen Mentoring.