So a couple of weeks ago, I got a speeding ticket. I was in a hurry to pass a car, and my lane was ending. Within a few seconds, there were flashing lights behind me, and I had a ticket to pay. I pleaded “no contest” and requested deferred adjudication. If I don’t receive another citation within three months, the ticket will be dismissed. I’m trying really hard to be conscientious and stay within the speed limit at all times, but too often, I look down and low and behold, I’m going 10-15 miles over the speed limit again. Even though I seem to be going with the flow of traffic, the realization that I am speeding sends an immediate sense of panic through me.
The same thing seems to happen in my school. As we have started the school year, “go slow to go fast” has been something coming from my mouth as a leader more and more often. I remember when my own principal said those words, I would think,
It’s amazing what a little maturity and experience bring for finding a new perspective. I have definitely learned that like my speeding ticket, going too fast just puts others in danger and can eventually cause things to take more time than you hoped to save because you have to go back and redo all that you did by going fast.
Going slow at the beginning of a school year allows us to teach students exactly what they need to do to be successful and build stability for speeding up in the future. So often, we assume students know what we want them to do. If we go slow and teach them the routines we want them to do, we will actually be able to go faster as these routines become habits that our students begin to do automatically.
We must also go slow and monitor the routine, providing corrective feedback to ensure they are doing what we need them to do correctly. If we allow our students to speed up and do the routine too quickly, they may actually practice incorrectly forming bad habits. It takes way more time to break a habit and then replace it than it does to do it correctly the first time.
Finally, and most importantly, we have to make sure we are taking the time to build relationships. I often think of Rita Pierson as she says, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Well, this makes teaching quite complicated. We can’t command our students to like us, and we don’t want to waste a year of learning. It is critical to take the time to build relationships with our students. If we do, we know what makes them tick. We know how they think and how they learn. Thus, we can go much more quickly.
The concept of going slow goes with parental relationships, too. Many of the parents today did not have the schools that we try to create today. They were often “do I as I say” environments where the value for individuals was scarce. Parents who experienced “quick to label” judgments of schools that failed to meet their needs are going to filter their views of schools through their own past experiences. We can’t just complain that parents aren’t supporting us. We must go to the root cause and build the relationships that allow parents to truly trust us. When that happens, magically, parents no longer question every school decision. It takes time up front, but it allows us to go faster in the long run with our parents helping accelerate the process.
“Going slow to go fast” in schools isn’t easy. Much like my deferred adjudication for my speeding ticket, I look down and sometimes it feels like even though we are trying to go slow, we are somehow going so fast the wheels feel like they are about to come off. As leaders, we have to recognize this tendency in ourselves, and in those we lead. I think the key is, that when you recognize that feeling, you can’t just keep your foot on the accelerator. You have to make the conscious decision to slow back down. You don’t want to go fast before the vehicle is stable enough to handle it.
In these beginning weeks of school, go slow. Take time. Find the grit to hold off and build momentum. Rely on a growth mindset and take the time to create strong habits that improve each day. But most of all, always have enough grace to give yourself permission to slow down.