What is Good Use of Time?
Students delve into questions about how best to use one's time—in one culture or another.
About the Poem
In "Soccer Until Dusk," Brazaitis reflects on the stark differences between the life his father chose and that of the men who gather after lunch each day in Santa Cruz Verapaz to play soccer all afternoon. Brazaitis describes his father as a White House reporter who finds it difficult to comprehend the relaxed work ethic that exists in the small Guatemalan village. The author compares his father's ambitious career with his own fond remembrance of the leisurely afternoon soccer games he watched as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
About This Lesson Plan
This poem provides an apt comparison with the story "The Meaning of Time." Both pieces explore how culture influences the way people use time, and both provide contrasts between life in the United States and in other cultures. Just as the pace of life in Guinea is slow moving, so too is it in Santa Cruz Verapaz, Guatemala—the setting of "Soccer Until Dusk." Generally speaking, in these cultures, taking enough time to greet people, to talk with them, or to help them is considered more important than rushing to be on time for a meeting or another event. And the efficient use of time, in general, is much less important there than in many industrialized cultures.
About the Setting
Guatemala is the most populous of the Central American countries. Almost 14 million people live there in an area about the size of Tennessee. Guatemala has coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of the Maya. Many are of mixed Spanish and other European descent. Although many live in rural areas, urbanization is steadily increasing as rural Guatemalans seeking employment move into cities. Nearly 1.5 million live in the capital, Guatemala City. Throughout the country, there is a contrast between the old and the new. In the capital, home to major television stations and newspapers, there are skyscrapers, supermarkets, and streets crowded with cars and buses. In contrast, Santa Cruz Verapaz, the rural town of 4,000 people where Brazaitis served as a Volunteer, had few modern conveniences.
The Peace Corps program in Guatemala, which began in 1963, is one of the agency's oldest. Nearly 4,000 Volunteers have served in Guatemala. Volunteers are focusing their efforts on helping rural communities move from subsistence to small-scale commercial agriculture, manage and conserve natural resources, improve health and nutrition, and increase off-farm incomes. To learn more about the work of the Peace Corps in Guatemala, visit the country-information section of the Peace Corps website atwww.peacecorps.gov.
- To explore the kinds of choices students will make about their use of time
- Testaments: tributes; statements about something's worth
- Gandhi: a 1982 film about the life of Mohandas Gandhi, who used nonviolence to bring about the independence of India. Gandhi's philosophy stressed service to others and the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty. Gandhi lived a simple life with few material possessions.
- Begin by posing the following questions in class and holding a discussion with the students.
- How would you define a workaholic?
- Is Brazaitis's father a workaholic?
- Do you think workaholics exist in all cultures, or is this an American phenomenon? How would you go about finding out the answer to this question?
- Why might someone choose to live his or her life as a workaholic?
- Do most Americans approve of people who seem to devote themselves to work over all else? Do you approve? If so, why? If not, why not?
- Do you think the workers in Guatemala should work longer hours?
- Why do the Guatemalan men in the poem choose to play soccer all afternoon?
- Considering economic conditions that exist in Guatemala (and other developing countries), do you think these men have a choice about how much time they spend at work? What role could the unemployment rate in Guatemala play?
- Ask the class to consider the statement: "We are shaped by the values of the culture in which we live." Have the class discuss in what ways this statement applies to the characters in Brazaitis's poem: the father; the soccer players; Brazaitis himself. In what ways does the statement apply to the students themselves?
- Journal Activity. Ask students to free-write in their journals for several minutes on the following topic: What makes a well-balanced life?
- Have students form groups of five or six. Provide each group with a large piece of chart paper and felt-tipped colored markers. Ask students to make a pie chart in which they allocate sections of the pie to specific ways they think time might be spent for a well-balanced life. To get started, you can provide the students with this list: work, play, friendships, family life, physical fitness, service to others, self-improvement, relaxation, religion.
- Before they begin drawing their pie charts, ask students to imagine that they are adults 15 years in the future. Have students debate with their group members the percentage of adult time that might be allocated to some of the items for a well-balanced life. Ask students to ensure they have reasons to support their choices.
- Point out that since it may be difficult to reach agreement, they should try to work through their differences through both careful listening and open-minded discussion. Assign group members roles, so that the discussion is not dominated by one or two vocal people. Roles can be discussion facilitator, mediator, summarizer, recorder, reporter.
- When the groups have finished their charts, ask them to show their results to the rest of the class, explaining the reasoning behind their choices.
Frameworks & Standards
- The concept of time differs among cultures.
- Why do some people choose to work more than they have to?
- What makes a well-balanced life?
- How does our culture influence the way we choose to spend time?
- What can be learned from the way people in other cultures view and spend time?
English Standards: 1,2
Social Studies Standards: I, IV
National Geography Standard: 10
For more information on the standards in Uncommon Journeys, see the Appendix (pdf—160 KB, linked to above).