Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time to Slow Down

I know, this time of year everything seems to be speeding up. As the semester comes to an end, and we are flooded with grading, meetings, and planning for next year (not to mention personal commitments, office parties, and holiday shopping), we all seem to be doing a dash for the finish line. But at what expense?

Lately my bedtime reading has been "In Praise of Slowness" by Carl Honore. Perhaps ironically, I haven't had much time to read, so I am barely past the first few chapters. However, it has gotten me thinking about what we sacrifice to fulfill our need for speed. Among other things (such as our health), we often sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.

As you wrap up the final sessions of your courses, think about what you want students to take away with them. What do you want them to remember? Maybe it's a better use of your time (and theirs), instead of rushing through the content that you somehow need to fit into the last week, to pause and reflect back on what you've all learned over the course of the semester. I don't mean a rapid review of every lesson and every reading, although many students seem to want this before a final exam. What I have in mind is taking the time to step back and look at the big picture. What were the big questions that were addressed, and what questions still remain? How will students use what they've learned in your course in their daily lives?

Bigger, faster, more more more. This seems to be how we live our lives, build our careers, and teach the next generation of researchers and educators (parents, employees, citizens) to operate. But are we teaching them to reflect, to grow, to be better at what they do?

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