Friday, August 10, 2007

On Slowing Down

The other night Alice and I had a conversation that has lodged in my brain and has been rattling around ever since. We were talking about education and grades, etc. And we got on the subject of early college and how quickly kids rush through their education (whether by their own choice or otherwise) to get to some strategically planned out destination. They end up with an associates the day they graduate from high school. Then they're 20 and have a college degree. And every class has been taken for the purpose of completing their education. Quickly. We discussed the great things you miss out on by rushing through the process: classes you didn't need to graduate, but that you benefited from nonetheless, sitting around with other students talking about what you'd learned, getting involved, volunteering, CHILDHOOD. Yes, it's nice because you saved on tuition those two years. Yes, it's nice if you're going on for graduate work or post-graduate work or post-post-graduate work to get the undergrad completed early on. The problem here is that in the rush your educational path becomes more about grades and the maximum amount of credit hours and getting on with your life, less about the actual education of the person, the human being, the individual. It is more about the goal and the prestige of accomplishing that goal. Learning, if considered at all, is no longer the focus. But isn't gaining an education supposed to be about learning? Aren't you better prepared for and more capable of contributing to the workforce/community/family/Conversation when you've learned and internalized more and allowed that information to simmer inside you?

This conversation has been sinking in me more and more and then, tonight, I happened upon this. So I guess this blog is about slowing down because I need to say it to get out what I think. I may repeat some his ideas--I apologize in advance. I just listened to it. But this is what I have to say: why the race? I feel like our motivation is skewed. I feel like we've forgotten the real purposes behind why we do the things we do.

And, trust me, I am not exempt from being guilty of this! I teach English to high school kids. I rush my students knowing full well that some things take time to learn. But there is "so much to do and so little time" and I say "hurry" more than I ought. And I'm wrong in doing this. The real purpose of me being there is to help these kids learn but instead of making sure they've mastered it, I spend my time calculating the time left of class in ratio to the tasks we need to complete--and does it come out even? I suppose I feel pressure. They have tests coming up, there is a certain level of expectation, if they're pushed to complete quickly, they have less time to get into trouble and they focus on the task at hand. Educating is tricky business. But rushing through it isn't necessarily the answer.

I am just left to ponder why "the better life" equates to "the fast lane." I think that feeling accomplished or that you've completed a task is a satisfying feeling. But, I would daresay, enjoying the process of that accomplishment is equally as satisfying, if not moreso. I am sure each of us has experienced the phenomenon in which we got what we wanted or what we thought we wanted and yet that elusive happiness did not appear, neatly packaged, before us as we had vaguely promised ourselves. Instead it was on to the next thing that might lead us into our own satisfaction. Take, for instance, the day I graduated from college. This particular day was the pinnacle I pined after for five years, the evidence and documentation that I had "arrived." Rather than the pomp and circumstance I had anticipated, I heard a resounding THUD! It was over. The graduation ceremony was anticlimactic. Now what? No, the working towards that day was the enjoyable part. The classes I took, the things I learned about myself, about my world, the people I met, these were what really mattered.

So, I suppose this is the truth about swift motion: If we spend our lives in constant swift motion, we miss the sights along the way. I, personally, am for slowing down, pacing myself, and taking the time to notice life as it manifests itself to me. Frame after frame. My ever-fluid goal this school year is to slow down both in the classroom and in my personal life.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this? Did you watch the link? Is my rambling just unrealistic, late-night fodder? What is the value in slowing down? What is the value in continuing at our present pace?


Michelle said...

I graduated from college at 25. That is 7 years after high school! I admit that in the past, I felt badly about this, like I was some sort of failure to have taken so long. But in those seven years and after, I have experienced so much more than those students who earned their bachelor's degree or masters in record time. I'm greatful for the "slower" road I took. Who wants to hurry up and have the boring life of "working" sooner than is necessary anyway?

Alice said...

There is totally value is slowing down. And as you know from our conversation the other night, I think people, and students in general (no matter what the age) miss out on so much in the name of convenience and speed.

Although I made it through my undergrad and grad work by a young age I don't feel like I was pressuring myself to "hurry and finish", it just happened to fall into place that way. Should I have slowed down a little? Maybe? I do know I learned along the line to appreciate learning for the sake of learning. So, although I may not be a student in the traditional sense, I take opportunities to learn all the time. Really, I wish I as learning more often.

I notice I find the most fulfillment when I slow down and "take joy in the journey". Cliché I know, but simple things bring me peace and happiness. When I'm going too fast I miss so much!

Thanks for the reminder to SLOW DOWN and enjoy the world around me.