“I am a slow walker but I never walk back”
In our world of instant gratification negative connotations abound in relation to the much maligned adjective “slow.” To be busy, to move with purpose, to have “relentless” drive are heralded as our generations modus operadus. I was a firm believer in the antithesis of everything slow stood for until very recently: pace, drive, passion, energy were my prerequisites for teaching, and indeed life. Yet the signs are clear: there is an issue at the heart of teaching that is leading to more and more individuals leaving the profession burnt out by the demands of a relentless conveyer belt of expectations. If ever a career was synonymous with overwhelming then teaching is it: just think about how you feel most Friday evenings. While it will always be demanding, the value of slowing down to reflect on priorities, on how best to encourage students to learn and retain information, on how best to sustain a professional career of continuous improvement is one that is becoming more and more essential.
An interest, dare I say it, an obsession in the value of slowing down has began to ironically keep me awake at nights. So much so that I have started writing a book: ‘Slow Teaching:’ how to remain calm, organised and teach for impact in the busy world of education. The book will be published by John Catt Education in 2018. The benefits I have had from writing regularly over the past six months have been huge, this is merely an extension of a new habit. Ideally it will hopefully will offer something positive to assist teachers in the demanding day to day business of teaching. The idea is that this collection of thoughts will look at the merits of slowing down in each of the following educational areas:
- Slow classroom environment
- Slow planning
- Slow body language
- Slow classroom talk
- Slow questioning
- Slow praise
- Slow relationships
- Slow behaviour management
- Slow feedback
- Slow assessment
- Slow data
- Slow pedagogical improvement
- Slow well-being
- Slow leadership
The opening chapter is here: any feedback on this stumbling beginning would be hugely appreciated. I have already written posts on the value of slowing down to reflect on the use of posture and body language in the classroom, slowing down to reflect on the impact of praise in the classroom and a more measured and serene behaviour management system taken from stoical philosophy.
The purpose of this page is to document the reading that influences this project, the books, articles and journals that I will be reflecting upon. This will (slowly, obviously) grow over the next few months. Hopefully there will be some things of interest, things to help to sustain perspective and glimmers of hope in our busy, tumultuous worlds. Any suggestions are hugely welcomed, particularly if you have written a blog on a similar topic. Happy slow reading:
‘This is Essentialism’ by Greg McKeown. Fascinating read that explores how to make more effective and impactful decisions both at work and at home.
‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore. An indispensable introduction to the slow movement. His TED talk is nineteen minutes that will make you reflect on your relationship with time. Watching this initially made me reflect on the value of decelerating in the classroom and inspired this post on slowing pace in the classroom and marking slowly for impact.
‘The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down’ by Haemin Sunim. A beautiful book from a Buddhist monk which offers powerful reminders about the value of slowing down.
‘The Book of Silence’ by Sara Maitland. A fascinating account of a desire for a slower and more tranquil existence. Will make you reflect on how to truly listen to others and the world around us.
‘Busy’ by Tony Crabbe. Learning how to streamline, prioritise and slow down in a professional world that is all encompassing.
Mind wise by Nicholas Epley. Interesting read on slowing down to reflect on how to understand our own and other individuals’ minds.
‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman. Emotional intelligence is impossible if you are flying around on auto pilot. Vital reading for slowly cultivating self-awareness and social deftness.
The New Leaders by Daniel Goleman. One of the best books about leadership I have read: one that advocates relationships, emotional intelligence and listening as imperative leadership qualities.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Fascinating read on why we behave in the way we do, what makes our minds race or procrastinate?
‘The Organised Mind’ by Daniel Levitin. How to organise in a world that cries out for immediacy. Essential reading for teachers who want to streamline their thinking.
‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain. In a world in which serenity, reflection and quiet qualities are often overlooked this is essential reading to cultivate the power of introversion.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The classic text in advocating increased self-awareness, reflection and living a considered life.
‘The Little book of Charisma’ by David Hodgson. For those of us who are not blessed with the natural powers of charisma, this is essential reading for slowly honing the skills of that will develop the power of communication in the classroom.
‘Make it Stick’ by Peter C. Brown, Henry L Roediger and Mark A McDaniel. Teaching for memory and retention is slow, deliberate and hugely nuanced and skilled. This book will be the starting point to doing this well.
The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook: Jim Smith. Still a huge amount in this that resonates: strategies to allow you to priorities better and to slow down to focus on what matters.
‘The Confident Teacher’ by Alex Quigley. Essential reading in the process of growing as a confident practitioner, a process that Quigley reiterates is slow and procedural.
‘High Challenge, Low Threat’ and ‘Hopeful Schools’ by Mary Myatt. What strikes me about both of Myatt’s books is a humanity that is considered, reflective but never naively optimistic. Myatt’s essays slowly deconstruct essential elements in successful schools: including relationships and harnessing attention to detail. Essential reading.
‘Teach like a Champion’ and ‘Reading Reconsidered’ by Doug Lemov. Lemov for me encapsulates the notion that growing as a practitioner is a slow, gradual and reflective process. The techniques in here are a call to striving to hone and develop the teaching craft, in a measured and deliberate fashion.
Memorable Teaching by Pepps Mccrea: An excellent and informative read on teaching to ensure memory retention and concentration.
‘Making Every Lesson Count’ by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby: This is absolute gold dust, deconstructing six areas of education (challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning) with clear and practical examples.
Why You Should Make Time for Self Reflection: Harvard Business Review. A fascinating read on the value of reflection: fifteen minutes a day could have a transformative impact.
It’s time for Slow Teaching Revolution Daily Telegraph. Interesting read exploring the merits of a slower educational system.
You’re Too Busy. ‘You need a Shultz Hour’ New York Times. Carving out quiet and slow time, at least once a week to evaluate priorities.
Who killed the weekend?: Katrina Onstad on protecting weekends. Book: ‘The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Two Days Off’ looks like a fascinating read!
The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle’s. A thought provoking read that encourages mindful engagement with the present moment.
Mindfullness: a practical guide by Mark Williams. Essential reading for developing an understanding of how to live more mindfully.
Websites and blogs
https://martynreah.wordpress.com: Anything on this wonderful site is goldmine for teacher well being, #teacher5aday is a perfect encapsulation of a slower, more considered teaching philosophy.
http://thatboycanteach.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/wellbeing-in-schools-framework.html?m=1: Lots of excellent posts on this site around teacher well being and optimism. This post in particular outlines prioritising well being at all levels in the school setting.
https://alifelessbusy.blog: A great collection of posts and reading on living a life of less.
http://www.theminimalists.com: Lots of fascinating reading here on downsizing and prioritising. Having less will enable a slower, more considered life.
https://zenhabits.net: Embrace some zen serenity with this excellent site.
carlhonore.com: Talks, books, podcasts: a comprehensive guide to slowing down.
http://www.slowmovement.com: Lots of excellent reading and a guide in this site.
http://sloweducation.co.uk: Interesting thoughts on deep learning and slowing the process of education in this.