Yep – that’s right. I’ve coined a new phrase, or at least I’ve never read or heard this phrase before, but it’s exactly the sense I get when I’m at my daughter’s new school.
There are no rigid beginnings and ends to anything. The day ebbs and flows with the children’s interest in and commitment to what they’re doing – or what they need to do.
When they need a snack or a drink, they get it.
When they need to move to a different place to be more comfortable, they do it.
When they need to use the restroom, they go.
When they are finished working on their current project or task, they move on.
And they are nice.
When children or adults are talking, they listen – at least mostly – and they respond thoughtfully.
It’s quite relaxed, actually.
I never get the sense that any of the children or the adults are anxious about time.
They get anxious about other things: how will we make our projects work? When will we get the details about the next fieldtrip? What questions should we ask the University intern who wants to work with us? How can we help one of our friends make better decisions so she or he doesn’t get into physical confrontations with others?
Time – however – is not an anxiety-provoking concept.
Just the opposite of what I always felt in my daughter’s classrooms in the past: we have to go here; we have to cover this; we have to go there; time to line up; time to go in; not enough time to read; not enough time to play; not enough time to talk; not enough time to think: go – go – go – go – go – go – go!
How can one be thoughtful in such a fast-paced place?
How can one grow to consider many different perspectives?
How can one acquire a repertoire of conversational practices?
How can one focus on something so deeply that they truly gain an insight and fully embodied understanding of it that it changes the way they experience the world from then on?
These things happen in my daughter’s new school – a school that doesn’t have “tardies” or “absences” – a school where you can begin dropping off children at 8:15, the community meeting is held at 9:00, but anyone is welcome to arrive whenever it is best for the child’s and family’s schedule or mood that morning.
FYI – I’m no longer Devil Mommy on school mornings.
Yes, I’ve become a better mother because of this slow school approach. I don’t spend my mornings yelling, “Let’s go! You’re going to be late! If you miss the bus you’re in trouble!! Hayden, NOW!”
And guess what? 99% of the time we arrive before the community meeting, and 90% of the time I drop her off at 8:15.
In other words, we manage to get to school in a timely way – but the experience of getting there couldn’t be more different from the time-tied and punishments-based-on-time system. In the fast-school-time-rules-everything-else system that turns me into MONSTERMOMMY and lots of teachers into monster teachers…just because they’re trying to be on time or cover things on time, complete the paperwork faster, and as soon as we try to rush things, children will frustrate us.
A slow school movement could parallel the slow food movement and might:
Assume children are learning all the time, regardless if they are in a formal school or with family members and friends;
Recognize the significant value of informal learning and its links to greater educational goals;
Move at the pace of children and families with built-in flexibility in schedules, routines, responses, education goals, social goals, emotional goals, physical goals;
Provide space for contemplation, deep study, long-term projects, and flexibility;
Focus on place-based learning that emphasizes human and nature relationships through outdoor education and deep academic inquiry;
Aim for a consciousness-raising education that centers all humans’ responsibility for other humans;
Meet the needs of individual children and families through long-term listening and response;
Strive for a holistic education for confident, socially-conscious, generous, contemplative, physically agile, and academic children live mindfully and creatively in the world for the benefit of themselves, others, and the natural world.