Before taking any important decision in life,
it is always good to do something slowly.
(The Diary Of A Magus)
I don’t know about you… but I too often find myself operating at one of 3 speeds:
And in every one of them, I eventually run out of gas. Anyone else know the feeling??!! I’ve always been intrigued by people who can operate at what I’ll call an optimum pace. Not too slow, not too fast. Just the right amount of effort and energy for what is required at the time. I also notice that these people make fewer mistakes, and they seem to be more settled about their stuff in life. How do they do it??!
Well… I’m always into solutions, so here’s a Big Picture one at least. Join the Slow Life movement. I first twigged to this when I read a book by Carl Honore called In Praise Of Slow. This guy talks about concepts such as Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Exercise, Slow Sex. And his contention is that we experience richer experiences by taking our time in these and many other pursuits. For a start, the Slow Food movement. During the past decade, over 100,000 people in 50 different countries have officially joined the organisation. Some of its features? No Maccas. Take your time with the savouring of your food. And focus on organic locally grown produce whenever possible. And then we had the Slow Cities movement. Free tai chi classes. Streets closed off to traffic. Basically, a more settled environment for inhabitants.
If this Slow concept intrigues you, then have a listen to the TED talk that was given by Carl Honore:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/UhXiHJ8vfuk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
So, given all of that, I’m going to propose that we introduce the Slow Schools movement. Am I serious? You bet! It probably won’t be that politically acceptable… but I assure you that it aligns with the best neuroscience research available. Here’re 3 suggestions on creating a Slow School:
1. Encourage students to develop what is called Alpha state (brainwave patterning between 8 to 13 cps). If you’ve ever meditated, you’ll know this state. Focused, relaxed, calm, and yet able to think clearly about the situation at hand. Learning is more effective when you’re in alpha. Nothing new to this. So why do I still see schools everywhere that operate in Beta (more than 13 cps)? Tension, fast-paced responses, exhaustion arriving too early in the day. At the very least, ask students to breath deeply for just 60 secs before the start of each lesson.
2. Model this sense of Slow to your students. Remember: They’re watching all of the time. If the adult minders are tense and uptight, it’s giving a poor message to the students. Stay centred, breath deeply yourself, and simply deal with each situation as it arises.
3. Begin the day on an optimistic note. On morning assemblies, speak steadily, and make sure that at least one affirming comment is made to everyone (this includes the teachers too). If you have to tell the kids what misbehaviour is unacceptable, turn the words around. Explain what it is that you would like them to do. I’ve seen too many morning assemblies in which the riot act is read out to everyone. I accept that this needs to be done if absolutely necessary. What concerns me is that it has also set the tone of learning in a school for the entire day.
You all know your optimum pace. So live it. Really live it. Every day. And steadily create classrooms and schools that do likewise. You’ll consistently achieve at much higher levels if you do. The concept of Slow Schools has a lot of merit.