Administration, Balance, Effective Teaching and Learning, Mindfulness, Reflection, Time Management

Slowing It Down

I remember when my children were small and life was busy.  They would be fascinated by the smallest things in life from a caterpillar crawling along the sidewalk to a pretty dandelion bobbing around in a sea of green grass.  My usual reaction would be to say, “Oh isn’t that cool, but let’s go now.”  Instead of slowing down to recognize the beauty and greatness of those insignificant things in the way a small child does.

Now that they have grown, I observe other small children at school or as I am passing them in the park or on the street and I wish I would have slowed it down more and nurtured that curiosity and wonder instead of rushing it away.

Lately as I have been enjoying my summer and slowing it right down to savor the cups of coffee on the deck, the sunshine and the good books,  I have come across the term often and it has given me reason to think.

Slow it down.

I mentioned in my last post how lucky I was to have attended a writing workshop with Ralph Fletcher and Georgia Heard this summer.  It was so nice to talk about the writing process as it is related to my own dabbling with writing and of course as it is related to my students writing in the classroom. They both told the most amazing stories about the small things in life that we often miss as we are rushing about.

The biggest message I came away with from the workshop was the process of slowing it down for my students.  Slow the whole writing process down.  Enjoy good writing.  Georgia’s advice to us was slow it down, use lots of mentor texts, take time to read them more than once, talk about them, let students share ideas about them.  It made me reflect back on my classroom processes a little bit.  I am always rushing.  I am not slowing it down.  We are not taking enough time to enjoy the process.

A beautiful quote from Georgia that was written in my notes was, “Live with one poem for at least 5 days, climb into it, but don’t destroy it.” Wow, what a nice way of putting it.  Slow down and really enjoy the poem.  Pick it apart and create meaning together by enjoying the craft and not tearing it apart so much we have taken away the enjoyment.

I came across the idea of slowing things down once again as I was reading the book, Teaching Kids to Thrive, Essential Skills for Success, by Debbie Silver and Dedra Stafford. I decided to add it to my reading list for the summer after many conversations with our learning support staff about building skills in our kids so they can be successful.  Some call them soft skills or executive functioning skills, but in the book they refer to them as skills needed to thrive.  Our Response to Intervention teacher and our school counselor had read it and thought it might be a good starting point.  Chapter 1 of the book is all about mindfulness and how we not only need to practice this ourselves, but we need to model for our students and slow down and teach them strategies of how to be mindful. In reflecting on this idea I wondered again about our need to rush.  We can take for granted that our students “know” things just because we think they are old enough or smart enough.  We can forget about those students who need more time or have never been taught and in our rush we forget to slow it down for our students.  Take time in the classroom to catch our breath, think about what we have learned and reflect on next-step actions.

Here is an interesting quote from the first chapter that stood out for me:

Students of the 21st century live is a quick-fix world of instant gratification distracted by an onslaught of more information than any other previous generation. They are bombarded with a never-ending stream of messages for most of their waking hours.  Seldom are they given the time to be still and think. Feeling the pressure of high-stakes tests, teachers rush through the mandated curriculum like it is a sprint rather than a marathon. (p. 11)

Could this be the missing key?  Why do we always feel the need to rush?

I feel like every summer as I am slowly allowing ideas to percolate and secretly planning for the new students I will have in the fall,  I vow to slow things down and spend enough time front loading, building relationships, getting to know each other and setting routines.

So what happens when the reality of the classroom hits?

The pressure of curriculum and outcomes and achievement and reading screens and math screens and deadlines and keeping up with everything starts and doesn’t ever seem to stop.  I manage to slow it down for a brief period of time, but I know I do not take time to slow it down much once the momentum of the learning year starts.

So how can I make sure the slowing down happens this year, not only at the beginning of the year but on an every day basis? I would love to hear any ideas you might have.  As you can tell, I don’t have all the answers yet, but as I am planning I will keep reminding myself…

Slow it down…slow it down…

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

-Lily Tomlin



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