Random thoughts on time–and time orientations

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HAVING minimal time to reflect when one prepares for a quality assurance visit, I realize time is a truly exhaustible resource. Yesterday, I received a friendly text — an observation about time which read something like this: In the past, only a few wear wristwatches. And there seemed to be plenty of time. Today, almost everyone wears a wristwatch and there is hardly any time left.

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Ages ago, when there were hardly any time pieces to wear, people seemed to have much more time than we do have these days. Mankind’s activities revolve around time. Every second that passes by is time. Time is a culture. Whether what we mean by time is clock time, or eons, ages, centuries, the various synonyms attest that time has been with us from the beginning of creation. And so it has earned many meanings to us. However, let’s limit our conversation to time orientations – present, past and future.

Some individuals are oriented to the present. Hence, to them, the past and the future are not of any significance. What’s important is the present. No need even to make a wish since the future cannot be otherwise than what has been determined by Fate. Neither, what used to be or what might be becomes the context of present decisions or actions. Others view time as the past. This orientation makes such people value the past. Traditions, customs and practices of ancestors are considered significant. They distance themselves to present-day realities; to them, the future provides no expectations. And there are those who cling to the future, with hopes for brighter tomorrows.

Punctuality-conscious cultures like in Germany, Switzerland and America live by the culture of the clock. Clearly present are the culture’s choice of words such as “where they spend time, save time or waste time.” Obviously, “time is an expensive commodity to be used wisely for them,” such as “time is gold.” As values, “progress, success and achievement are held in high regard and are based on adherence to time-keeping. Academic and professional assignments are timetabled and obey strict time deadlines.”< https://www. communicaid. com/…cultural… /how-time-can-cause-conflict-> This orientation has implication on what we teachers encounter with our students. Present-oriented students are more wont to relish the pleasures available for the present. If there is an exam, they usually cram at the last minute since they are more likely to use time for “short-term gratifications.” Such students are usually impulsive and easily loss resolve in accomplishing priorities. As Stanford social psychologist, Philip Zimbardo observed, they also study less.

John Immerwahr points to more details on this in a “lecture that he (Zimbardo) gave at the California Commonwealth Club, a podcast from iTunes, and a video version of the lecture available at<http://fora.tv/ 2008/11/12/Philip_Zimbardo_ The_Time_Paradox# chapter _01,>

I ask myself what my time orientation is – whether it is past, present or future. I do remember how our elders taught us life’s lessons. There were no long sermons. There was no nagging. It’s either a whip – a thick belt, or simply a proverb which Grandma would quote. When my aunt, a middle-aged mother, complained to grandma about my aunt’s children always wanting to tag along wherever she went, Grandma would say, “Elena, come, look out the window to our poultry. Do you see the chicks, always running closely behind their mother?” And when my aunt got worried over one of her sons in company of friends she did not approve of, Grandma said, “Elena, gold, even if it is thrown in the mud, wash it, it still remains gold.” And when I remarked why some people could have unkind remarks about others who are consistent achievers and not at all arrogant, Grandma would say, “Only those trees with fruits are stoned.” Since there was less nagging or long sermons those days, life’s lessons are summarized and more easily remembered. Less time used in long sermons, family members had more time to do meaningful things, including playing with grandchildren. And because I have a “nostalgic remembrance” of all of these, and treasure them, am I past oriented? Zimbardo qualifies such tendency that positive experiences of one’s past gives one “a sense of personal continuity or a stable sense of self over time, a sense of rootedness.” Also, that individuals do have varying time orientations for select activities. One may be past oriented as to one’s experience with family traditions and cherished practices and past realities while being open to those which are new and more efficient.

Other persons are future-oriented. They are on the look-out for economic development, the state of political affairs and improved government services. As to students, these are the type who prepare for the exams for what passing the exams mean for their future; are “good at problem solving and abstract reasoning tasks, get higher grades. . . required in courses.” Zimbardo describes them as those inclined to act at present on matters with positive future outcomes” “to achieve longer-term better goals”. . “as a payoff in the future.” http://www. teachphilosophy 101.org/default.aspx?tabid=156. A refinement of the future orientation could be a short or a long term future — such as those “who focus on planning and persevering toward longer-term goals” or those inclined “to a shorter-term future in which meeting deadlines is most important.” (30)

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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