This time of year is incredibly busy for most schools and it can certainly be said for Somerset College. Final examinations, preparations for end of year celebrations, planning for the 2023 timetable, report writing, students completing major projects and assignments, sporting seasons winding down... Whew!

Carl Honore’s text, In Praise of Slowness, offers an enlightening alternative that we could all reflect on. Not only can this reflection be undertaken when considering school life, but rather life in general.

Honore suggests that we are all inhabitants in a world which is increasingly “…obsessed with speed, with doing everything faster, with cramming more and more into less and less time”. Evidence can be found all around us: Power naps, speed reading, speed dial, speed dating. As you can see, even our language and slang persuade us to live and work faster or else we are, at best, ‘wasting our time’ or, at worst, ‘wasting away’. Phrases such as ‘You either use it, or lose it’, ‘Time is money’ or ‘Time waits for no man’ create a culture that encourages haste. Consequently, we all (including students) try to fit more and more in and this then feels like there is less and less time to do so.

Honore states that “Right across the world, people are doing the unthinkable: they're slowing down, and finding that, although conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down, you're road-kill, the opposite turns out to be true: that by slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better”.

When peering at this notion through the prism of education, it is important to understand that I am not advocating for inaction. Rather, it is important to recognise how the action itself is taking place. The key, as Honore mentioned is to know when to slow down “…at the right moments…”.

Looking beyond the immediate circumstances experienced by our senior students with their examinations taking place, it is also important to reflect on the experience our junior students are undertaking and what they are being prepared for in their future.

Ivy League Schools (such as Oxford and Cambridge) receive thousands of applications regularly from keen, eager and obviously dedicated students whose resumes are “…jammed with extracurriculars, to the point that would make your eyes water. But they lack spark; they lack the ability to think creatively and think outside…”. To combat this, these schools are starting to send a message to parents and students that they need to begin to consider this pace revolution. Harvard, for instance, send out a letter to undergraduates telling them that “…they'll get more out of life, and more out of Harvard, if they put on the brakes, if they do less, but give time to things, the time that things need…”.

So how can a student take the time to slow down? Some may need to learn how to schedule this time. Others could be encouraged to exercise (either alone or with others). Reading for pleasure outside of learning? Experimenting for process and discovery rather than outcome? A family walk without purpose of the destination?

At this busy time of year, when we all feel the obligation to be faster and fit more in, we should be encouraged to all take a deep breath and clearly focus on what needs to be achieved and how we may be able to do that. This does not mean we neglect responsibility nor turn away from opportunity.

But… one cannot help but consider Aesop’s memorable fable of the speedy, impetuous hare versus the calculated, considered tortoise.

With so much to do, it is important to be sure to take the time to get in touch with our inner tortoise.

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