One thing I often hear from teachers and head teachers interested in Slow Education is “Sounds great, but how do I get started?” Inevitably there is no easy answer and no quick fix! Slow Education resists developing a model or package that you can buy and make your school ‘Slow’. Indeed this would return us to the sausage machine, but just with a different label on the box at the end.
However, the Slow Education Network is home to many schools, teachers, academics and other education providers who have wrestled with the same questions and overcome the same barriers to developing Slow approaches in their contexts. I asked some educators who have been developing Slow practice for many years to provide some inspiration and advice in response to the following questions:
What are the first things you would do over the next week / month / year to establish Slow Education in your classroom/school?
Michelle Sheehy – Head Teacher at Millfield Primary School, (West Midlands, UK):
Tips for school leaders:
- Be brave. Take on those who challenge your beliefs and the ethos of your school. You know your children and you know what is right for them
- Take the fear away from your staff. Tell them that any worries about attainment and progress are whole school issues. The entire school community need to know that they can trust each other so that they can work together to provide the best possible experience for the children in their care
- Let staff run with their ideas. Don’t try to fit into a mould prepared by someone else
- Take time to enjoy the children and staff; laugh with them; let them know you value them. PSHE lessons were only needed originally because staff did not make time to talk to the children as issues arose
Hillary Hinchliff – Head Teacher at St Silas Primary School (Blackburn, UK):
Top tips as a school leader:
- Develop a ‘no blame’, coaching culture in school.
- Magpie! – search the internet for videos, case studies, articles, blogs, go see other schools etc – share with all the staff. Talk about it ALL THE TIME, drip drip drip!
- Pick out staff members that you know will be good ambassadors to trial aspects – share with all the staff. Talk about it ALL THE TIME, drip drip drip!
- Continue to develop a no blame, coaching culture in school.
- GO SLOW!
Anna Ephgrave – Assistant Head Teacher for EYFS at Carterhatch Infant School (Enfield, UK) and co-founder of ‘Freedom to Learn Network’:
- In all that you do trust that children have an innate desire to learn.
- Use “levels of involvement” to spot when children are learning.
- Set up an ‘enabling environment’ which appeals to every child (in order to ensure the involvement of every child).
- Recognise that every adult-child interaction is ‘teaching’. Such interactions, when done skilfully, will lead to progress that is developmentally appropriate for the child.
- Breath, relax and smile!
- Find somewhere to work that allows you to pursue a developmentally appropriate curriculum.
Richard Pratt – Director of CIS Hangzhou at the Chinese International School:
- My resolution right now is to be more assertive and directive in restraining my teachers. Less really can be more and sometimes we are our own worst enemies.
- Read Richard’s full article on developing Slow practice in a residential school in Hangzhou in China here.
Alexis Shea – Education Consultant and former Head of Project-Based Learning at Matthew Moss High School, Rochdale:
To develop Slow Education from a classroom perspective I would think carefully about my long and medium term planning. I try to begin planning each scheme by deciding on a final outcome towards which learners can work. This draws closely on Ron Berger’s work as outlined in his book ‘An Ethic of Excellence’. The outcome should draw together all their learning from the scheme and be something that you might expect to find in the real world, e.g. a report, a letter, an informative poster, etc. At the beginning of the scheme the pupils explore examples of similar outcomes in detail so they know what makes it a professional standard. Then they complete drafts and gain specific feedback on these drafts to help them understand more deeply what is involved in creating the quality end product. By focusing on a specific outcome and enabling learners to draft this several times they experience how they can improve something gradually over time with effort. I try to encourage pupils to continually work at improving their outcome; this means there are times when they need to try something out of their comfort zones and risk doing something that may not work out the first few times. The whole process not only helps them to make progress on the specific outcome for that scheme but also to recognise the importance of effort and resilience during their learning journeys.
Keep checking back! I’ll update this page whenever I get new suggestions.
If you have any tips you want to contribute please contact me. Details here.