Everything and everyone at their own pace. Flow with not against yourself.
After six months of work, the tech guys and I were careening toward the finish line of the Choice Literacy website redesign project. Launch was in a few days, and we still had a small number of issues to resolve, some code to tweak, and images to tidy up. At the moment, Ali (the lead programmer) and I were trying to come up with a print-friendly option for articles. We’d tried a bunch of plug-ins and brainstormed solutions. None were ideal, but the launch was almost here.
I argued we should take the least bad option, implement it, and move on. We’d already spent a lot of time and energy on the problem. Ali paused and said, “Hold on. Let’s step back. Put all the options we’ve considered aside and begin again. What is our goal here?” The goal was simple–for site users to easily be able to print articles. But none of the solutions involved less than a few steps, and all were glitchy.
In that moment I realized the solution might cause more problems than it solved. Ali asked for another 24 hours, and came back the next day with a simple and elegant plan that worked, involving no plug-ins but instead an ingenious bit of new code.
The experience made me think about how hard it is to bring momentum on any project to a dead stop and “begin again.” I often tell friends who are just starting a major venture that the hardest part is beginning and building motion. It’s a simple principle from physics. It is far more difficult to get an object in motion than it is to keep an object in motion. Once you’ve set the time aside for daily writing on your book project, or once your students develop that muscle memory for workshop routines, the energy to keep those systems humming and moving forward can be fairly minimal.
But I rarely think of the reverse of that physics principle. Once a system is in motion, it takes a lot of effort to bring it to a stop. To pause, begin again, and find the energy to restart it in a completely different direction is hard. When you stop, the quiet can be overwhelming. And in that quiet space, you sometimes realize how your vision has narrowed, how accustomed you have become to accepting less than the ideal.
So if you feel like you are taking a kamikaze dive toward a finish line, or losing control of a project, don’t be afraid to stop. Trust yourself to step back, and begin again by asking, “What is my goal here?” The answer may surprise you and take you in a completely new direction.
This week we look at how to slow down teaching and learning when every impulse you feel is to speed up. Enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Gretchen Schroeder has three strategies for slowing down with her high school students and savoring literacy learning.
Gigi McAllister realizes she is a slow thinker, and this makes her reconsider some of her classroom practices to support children who need more time to respond.
Jennifer Gonzalez offers some advice for helping students whose slow pace may signify underlying perfectionism or other issues.
We hope you’ll make our online course program part of your personal improvement plan this spring. Instructors include Ruth Ayres, Katherine Sokolowski, Dana Murphy and many others. Topics in the self-paced classes include student research projects, smarter reading conferences, and better coaching cycles. Members receive discounts of 20-40% on course fees, and nonmembers receive three-month trial memberships to the website.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Ruth Ayres is interrupted during a busy day by a first-grade teacher who enthuses over the details in a student draft. This leads to some reflection on the importance of taking time to marvel.
Bitsy Parks comforts a crying child after lunch, and realizes how essential it is to continually slow down the fast pace of learning in her classroom.
It would be easy to zip quickly through a writing conference about a vacation story, especially one about a trip to Disney. In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson slows down with Ben to explore how he is meeting his goal of adding descriptive language to writing, using digital tools to assist.
In an encore video, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“The Sisters”) talk about the importance of having “Small Moments” and “Happenings” sections in writing notebooks to help students slow down and focus.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Cathy Mere substitutes in leading a meeting, and realizes the importance of always slowing down and taking the temperature of the room when beginning professional development sessions. She shares her seven favorite strategies for slowing down and reading the room.
In this quick video, Jen Schwanke explains why the most essential task for a new principal or literacy leader may be to slow down and ask lots of questions.
PD2Go: Sometimes using a prop can help young students understand a revision strategy. Heather Rader helps second grader Sammi slow down and understand how to “magnify” a moment when revising her writing.
Are you finding yourself continually distracted? Art Markman shares four strategies for slowing down and getting at the root causes of a wandering mind.
Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.
That’s all for this week!