“I am a slow walker but I never walk back”
In our world of instant gratification and pace, the adjective “slow” is not given much positive press. To be busy, to move with purpose, to have “relentless” drive are heralded as the way we should live. I was a firm believer in the contrast of everything “slow” stood for until very recently: pace, passion and energy were my prerequisites for teaching, and indeed life.
Yet the warning signs are clear: there is an issue at the heart of teaching, one 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, to consider 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’: a guide to finding calm, organisation and impact in the classroom’ The book will be published by John Catt Education in early 2018. The benefits I have had from writing regularly over the past year 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 contents page currently explores the following areas:
- The slow teaching philosophy
- The minimalistic and organised classroom.
- Strategic and streamlined planning
- An actor’s paradise: the non-verbal in the classroom.
- Direct instruction: efficient teacher talk.
- Praising for impact
- Building effective relationships
- The serene and stoical behaviour management policy
Slow Classroom strategies
- The power of modelling
- Developing motivated and reflective learners
- Debunking manic marking
- Memory mysteries: testing and retention.
- The secrets of effective revision.
- Literacy: beyond the quick fix solutions.
Slow Teacher improvement
- Reflect and refine, growing in the teaching craft.
- Coaching: the path to improvement.
- Understanding and managing stress
- Arming ourselves against anxiety
- Embracing mindfulness: the meditating teacher
- Tackling teacher insomnia: sleep easy.
- Value driven leadership
The opening chapter is here: any feedback on this stumbling beginning would be hugely appreciated. The purpose of this page is to document the reading that influences this project, the books, articles and journals that I will be reflecting on and referencing in the book. This will (slowly, obviously) grow over the next few months (my wife must never discover how much this project has cost!). Hopefully there will be some things of interest, things to help to sustain perspective and glimmers of hope in our busy, tumultuous world. 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.
Nudge by Richard Thaler. The fundamental basis for much of the modern thinking about behavioural economics, it has a range of interesting ideas related to education.
Declutter your mind by Barrie Davenport. A range of approaches on how to overcome feelings of anxiety and stress, a very useful read.
Do Less, Get More by Shaa Wasmund. Guidance on how to say no and to develop organisational habits – an engaging and thought provoking book.
‘Essential’ by Joshua Fields Millburn. A book of essays that provides an introduction to the minimalist movement: a less is more philosophy that filters through life and into the classroom.
The Ten Minute Declutter by Barrie Davenport. A stress busting solution: ten minutes of sorting a day to lead to a simplified life.
Simplicity by Edward De Bono. Very interesting read on how to make the complicated as simple as we possibly can.
‘The Matthew Effect: How advantage begets further advantage’ by Daniel Rigney. An important read on the widening gulf between advantage and disadvantage in our society.
‘Switch’: How to Change thing when change is hard’ by Chip and Dan Heath. One of the most thought provoking reads I have read in this project: an overview of how to implement change in any organisation. Lots of very useful ideas for creating change in education.
‘Sleep Faring: A journey through the science of sleep’ by Jim Horne. The best book I read on sleep, full of science and practical wisdom.
The Upside of Stress: Why stress is good for you and how to get good at it’ by Kelly McGonical. A book on how to re-evaluate our relationship with stress. Her excellent TED talk is here
‘An ethic of Excellence’ by Ron Berger. Time to slow down and make sure that students understand what excellence is, and that we become an “archiver of excellence”, an inspiring read.
‘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.
‘Constructive Talk’ by Valerie Coultas: A useful deconstruction of how to ensure quality classroom talk and on how to use talk to manage behaviour.
‘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 is the essential starting point in 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 Don’t Students Like School’ by Daniel T Willingham. Sometimes we loose the ability to empathise with the young people we spend our days with, this is a fascinating read on the ways we can help students to become successful.
‘Trivium 21st C’ by Martin Robinson. Fascinating to re-read this book, which provides a philosophical exploration of education throughout the ages.
‘Making Good Progress – ‘The future of Assessment for Learning’ by Daisy Christodoulou. For anyone interested in the nature of assessment in modern education this is an important read.
‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way’ Edited by Katerine Birbalsignh. A thought provoking insight into what is clearly a school founded on passion and clarity. Well worth reading.
‘The hidden lives of learners.’ by Graham Nuthall. Full of valuable and thought provoking insights into a long career in education.
‘Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximising Impact on Learning‘ by John Hattie. Evidence based research with lots of excellent strategies for the classroom.
The Reading Mind’ by Daniel T. WIllingham. To understand the challenges faced by young people when reading, this is a must read.
‘Bringing Words to Life’: Robust Vocabulary Instruction’ by Isabel L Beck Margaret G McKeown and Linda Lucan. Teaching vocabulary can be a mystifying process, with so much conflicting advice out there. This is excellent, full of practical and useful strategies for the classroom.
‘Essential Motivation in the classroom’ by Ian Gilbert. A light hearted and entertaining evaluation of how to motivate young people in the classroom.
‘The Elephant in the Staffroom: How do reduce stress and improve teacher wellbeing.’ by Chris Sivers. Very good on stress in the workplace, full of advice and ideas.
‘Ticked off: checklists for teachers, students, school leaders’ by Harry-Fletcher Wood. Everything you read about managing stress highlights the value of lists to seek to organise our thinking. This book is an excellent guide in how to do this for all aspects of education.
‘When adults change, everything changes’ by Paul Dix. The best book I have read on behaviour for this book, it will make you re-evaluate how you address behaviour in the classroom.
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.
The Science of Meditation by Daniel Goleman. A deconstruction of the research into meditation and mindfulness, further evidence in how meditation can help us to alleviate feelings of stress.
Websites and journals
‘Principles of Instruction’ by Barack Rosenshine. A must read on the principals of effective teaching.
‘Slowing Down May Be a Way of Speeding Up’ by Mary Budd Rowe. The origins of wait time in questioning, fascinating research.
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.