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I recall being a youngster playing video games over at my neighbor’s house. He had an Atari, and that was the cream of the crop when it came to video game systems in the early ‘80s. However, we faced a problem at times. What would we do if the phone rang or someone knocked at the door? The Atari didn’t have a pause button, so it would either be ignore the phone/door or completely stop our game. (Usually the game took precedence!)

And lo, there came progress with video games – a pause button! It was amazing; no longer did we have to make a choice! Pause buttons also inundated boom boxes and VCRs, and we didn’t dread the ringing of the phone anymore! Plus, I could have my boom box set to record with the pause button depressed and then just hit it again when a good song came on the radio. I could tape out the commercials when I recorded a show on the TV. Life was good!

Pause buttons can still be found ubiquitously. However, kids today seem loath to use them. This is the problem in our house quite often. As soon as we remind our children of some chores awaiting them, we’re told they’re in the middle of an episode on Netflix or a video on YouTube. When reminded that it’s easy to pause and resume after the chores are complete, an eye roll often ensues. “Consider it a commercial break,” I might posit.

One of our largest problems in our technology-based educational system today is that students DON’T have any problem pushing the pause button on their homework. It’s quite easy, while working on an iPad or Chromebook, to skim over to YouTube and catch that latest Dan and Phil video or scan through the latest cute kitty memes. It’s not long before the homework is forgotten and the pause button quickly morphs into a stop.

We all need breaks at times. I freely admit to sidestepping work for five minutes to clear my mind. Over break, I had a virtual stack of stories to read, creative writing ranging from 2-11 pages in length. There’s no way I could barrel through even one section without a respite, especially when students continue to refuse to use the shift key while typing. Usually I can finish 5-7 stories like that before needing to come up for air. A couple games of Candy Crush or a jaunt through a comic book will get my mind cleared and back on track. In a way, it’s good for the kids whose papers I am correcting since I won’t let my frustration get too out of hand.

But that’s where it ends. I DO get back to my work in a timely fashion. I try to get work corrected and back to students within a day; the exception is essays and stories, where I might need a few days, depending on my schedule. In doing this, I try to model the behavior I expect of them – items completed on time. I know I can’t take huge breaks from plowing through some vocabulary sentences or they won’t get done. Once students recognize that a pause button is meant for brief breaks, the quality of work goes up.

One parent recently shared her frustration with her son’s iPad. “He always wants to play games and doesn’t get his work done,” she told me. I told her there are ways to limit some of the access and to only allow him use of the iPad when a special code is used. However, part of what we’re working on is teaching students responsibility with technology. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, part of that teaching has to come at home. If students are hitting that pause button too much, parents need to hover a bit, just as a boss will do at work someday if the employee isn’t getting work done.

Wouldn’t we all like to pause more? I just had my hair cut, and the lady who did the work showed me the back in a mirror to make sure it looked okay. As much as I didn’t think it would bother me, noticing the beginnings of a bald spot unnerved me a bit. I wish I could pause the loss of my hair, but it seems inevitable at this point.

Don’t we all wish we could have hit a pause button at various times before saying something we later regretted? We’ve all heard the axiom about thinking before speaking, but we’ve also all broken that at times. Oh, to have those moments back and pause before uttering those fateful words.

As we embark on the new year, it’s good to pause and take inventory of ourselves. We all look back at 2015 and glance ahead to 2016. However, don’t pause too long; you still have those chores to do!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is viridity, which means the state of being green, as in, “After the virdity of his yard disappeared under the snow, he was reminded that the shoveling wouldn’t complete itself.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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