Something about the autumn makes us slow down after scurrying around in the summer busily doing all kinds of things. Now one reflects on the spectacular array of colours gracing the maple and poplar trees. We know it won’t last, as the rains and winds start swirling the leaves in all directions. We want to hold on to the moment, just to stop and think.

Learning is something like this too. With our technological advances, we rush through our reading of the news, maybe only reading the first few lines, we scan the internet briefly, send a text or a tweet, all in a matter of minutes. Stop and think about a child who has difficulty reading, and has all this information bombarding them as well each day. As a teacher, it’s important for you to imagine what it’s like for this child. Parents rush them out the door in the morning, bells ring, and suddenly he is expected to sit and listen and take in all this new information. It is important for these students to have a time of transition where they can slow down. Here are some ways this can happen in the classroom:

  • Bell work: put a math story problem or a riddle on the board every morning for students to solve.
  • Silent reading time: Give 10 minutes for the class to settle into the day by silent reading or drawing for non-readers.
  • If a student gets agitated easily, check with her first thing in the morning, and if she needs some “slow”time, give her an errand to run to the office. Secretaries are great for giving students a listening ear.
  • Have a big Stop and Think Sign in the front of the classroom, and if a student feels overwhelmed he can go to the front and put up the sign to alert the teacher and classmates that he needs quiet thinking time.

StopandThink2Sometimes a lesson needs to be put aside, and as a class you can brainstorm how to “slow” down. If it’s one of the last nice fall days, go for a walk and discover the world outside. Or form a circle and tell “fireside stories” together, eat marshmallows and relax.

Some educators believe that schools need to make big changes to “slow down”. The “slow education” movement as it is known started in Europe and has now filtered to other countries. Carl Honore, an advocate of slow schools, refers to them as being a way of relieving the pressure such frenzy has on our children. “Slow schools give scope for invention and response to cultural change, while fast schools just turn out the same old burgers.” (In Praise of Slowness; How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed.) I once went to a “slow food” dinner, where everything was cooked and eaten very slowly. It was delicious! Whether it’s slow reading, slow food, or simply slow walking, we need to stop, take a breath, and savor the world around us, as teachers and students.

Stop and think; quiet thinking time; slow down; slow education; slow schools; slow food; slow reading; slow walking; savor the world.