Why everyone should draw lines in the sand

I grew up very close to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia – Lucinda Beach. One of my clearest memories of childhood was that I was allowed to make a glorious mess in the sand and no one was allowed to tell me ‘no’. The beach was a space that I could literally and metaphorically bury myself. I could build the castles and caves that I dreamed of and it didn’t matter if it crumbled down because I could always start again. In hindsight, I was never really any good at anything except maybe pushing the sand from one side to the other.

But then my older brother came.

More often than not, he didn’t like what I was doing and most times he either sprayed it with water carried up from the sea at our backs, kicked it over or laughed as it inevitably crumbled. He was the pirate that plundered and destroyed my imaginary kingdoms (all in good fun of course). But he also taught me a valuable lesson at this time without even meaning to.

What he did do, as clearly as I remember it, was to mark out a territory before he began building his own sandcastles. He would draw a square in the sand maybe two metres by two metres and he would build his kingdom within this boundary. I remember asking him about it once as he drew his outline in the sand and he explained that in the top right corner – that was where the castle would be and there would be a moat around it. In the top left – that was the farming section (sugar cane and bananas). Bottom right was where all of the animals would be kept and bottom left is where the army would stay (there always had to be an army for some reason).

What my brother was doing was setting boundaries on something as expansive as a beach because it helped him make sense of where things fit.

I recently had a conversation with a Year 12 student about how to ‘find time’ and the analogy of the beach crossed my mind. The sheer size of what needs to be done can be overwhelming, especially in the final year of the program. The number of internal assessments, the course work, the looming mock exams in January, all of this adds up and results in students feeling increasing pressure because the workload seems endless.

It is time for students to ‘mark out their territory’ in order to make sense of what is to come – but where do they begin? I recently read a blog from educator Jennifer Gonzalez called Overwhelmed? Do 5 Things. In this blog she suggests that in order to get started, we need to simply ‘get started’ by doing five simple things. It is good advice for anyone with a huge task ahead. It is also a quick read if you have a couple of minutes.

For students it may be as simple as marking out territory in their week to work on their Biology or their History or their English or their EE or whatever needs to be done. I hesitate to use the words ‘revision schedule’ because for students this seems to be as scary as the wide boundless sea I used to play beside when I was younger, but essentially it is setting goals and boundaries for the huge amount of work that is about to come or is already here.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ plan to set out time to work on school assessment and coursework, but the first step is to block time during the week. It is a way of drawing lines in the sand and building within those lines – if you set aside an hour after dinner to work on a particular subject, then keep to your self-imposed boundary.

Making sense of something that may feel overwhelming is the first step to releasing the pressure building up and undoing some of the anxiety. By giving order to the week, it will not fly by before we realise it, as it so often does. It will not be the day of a test that we have not had time to study for. It will not be Friday before we realise that something is due on Monday. We will not be saying to ourselves, ‘Where did the time go?’

It may even help get work finished early, with enough time to take a trip to the beach. As we head into the colder months here, spare a thought for those back in Australia heading for the rough summer at the beach below.

Lucinda Beach
Queensland, Australia

Picture retrieved from: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1800622-d8555768-i324066676-Lucinda_Jetty-Lucinda_Queensland.html