A Slow Teaching Collection

02 Mar 2018

After reading ‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore in February of last year I set off on a mission: an examination of applying slowness to the world of education. Over a year later the book is published by John Catt Educational today and and available to buy from Amazon here. It certainly doesn’t advocate a “tortoise teaching” approach, rather it encourages teachers to take more control of finding the most effective way to orchestrate the incredibly busy world of education. That involves focussing more on what research suggests can make a difference, streamlining our teaching and marking for real impact, and developing more of an understanding of how to manage our wellbeing.

The contents page looks like this:

Foreword by Mary Myatt

Part I: Silent Slow

1. The Slow Teaching Philosophy

2. The Minimalistic Classroom

3. Streamlined Planning and Teaching

4. An Actor’s Paradise: The Non-Verbal in the Classroom

Part II: Slow Talk

5. Efficient Teacher Talk

6. Questioning: Rediscovering the Potential

7. To Praise or Not to Praise?

Part III: Slow Relationships

8. Refining Relationships

9. Serene and Stoical Behaviour Management

Part IV: Slow Classroom Strategies

10. The Power of Modelling

11. Developing Motivated and Reflective Learners

12. Debunking Manic Marking

13. Memory Mysteries.

14. Literacy: Beyond the Quick Fix Solutions

15. Teaching the Secrets of Effective Revision

Part V: Slow Teacher Improvement

16. Reflect and Refine: Growing Passionate Teachers

Part VI: Slow Wellbeing

17. Understanding and Managing Stress

18. Arming Ourselves Against Anxiety

19. Tackling Teacher Insomnia: Sleep Easy

20. Embracing Mindfulness: The Meditating and Mindful Teacher

Part VII: Slow Leadership

21. Value-Driven Leadership


One of the things I have particularly enjoyed about the process of (slowly and at times painfully!) writing a book has been the experience of examining the complexities of all these different areas of teaching. I have shared some of the thinking and research from the book on this website and in other places, and this blog is a collection of ten of those posts

This introduction to the book explores some of the ideas behind it, exploring how speed has become much more of a default way of being in the classroom (remember the obsession with “rapid paced outstanding lessons?”)

The book opens with a chapter called the ‘Minimalistic Classroom.’ This explores the impact of our classroom environment in helping both us and our students feel calm and focussed. This article for the Guardian Teacher Network is a summary of some of the ideas and how minimalism (the idea of less is more) can be applied to our teaching.

The old adage that teachers are actors has a significant grain of truth in it. I wanted to explore the significance of both our ‘silent’ communication in the classroom, and the impact of how we deliver material. This post ‘Ten Public Speaking Tips for Teachers’ is a summary of some of the research and ideas.

No learning can function unless the behaviour in the classroom is managed effectively. Stoical philosophy explores the significance of our own reactions to external events, and what we can really control. I first wrote about the idea of applying stoical philosophy to behaviour management and teaching in this post in 2016, and this is a strand that runs through the book.

Marking is one of the real time devourers for busy teachers, and often this is time that could be much better employed. This post is a reflection on some of the research collected on marking, in particular looking at how to encourage young people to take more ownership of their own work.

Questioning is one of the most fascinating aspects of teaching. We use them so often and so frequently, however, that they can lose their real value. Lots of research led to me to collate these questioning traps, that interestingly are often speed related!

Another frequent and arguably overused feature of the classroom is praise, this article for The Guardian Teacher Network is an introduction to some of the more effective ways of employing it in the classroom.

One of the aspects of teacher wellbeing that isn’t given enough attention is the importance of sleep. As a fairly useless sleeper myself, this post is a collection of some of the strategies and research that can make a difference.

How can we slowly build and improve our teaching craft over time? I grapple with this question in the book and there are a range of answers. Meaningful and structured reflection, as explored in this article for the Guardian, is one means that can help us to take more ownership and enjoy the process of growing as teachers.

One of the reasons I wrote the book was to reflect on ideas about teacher wellbeing and try to consider how we can stop teachers speedily fleeing from the profession after five years. This was partly inspired by my own experience: I spectacularly burnt myself out after I was promoted to an assistant headteacher at the age of twenty seven, when my response to stress was just to work for longer and with more speed. This post for TES looks at the importance of ‘lowering the revs’ and why we all have a responsibility to embrace more slowness in the school environment.

Two things particularly struck me about writing and researching the book: the exciting potential of how complex and intricate teaching is, and what a remarkably important and wonderful career we are committed to. When we rush through our teaching days in autopilot and stress, however, we inevitably lose sight of this and become the teaching equivalent of a hamster on a wheel. Giving ourselves the space and time to slow down can help us to take more ownership of our teaching, and reconnect with the reason why we idealistically joined the profession in the first place.

It is doing this that motivates and energises us to improve our provision for young people. This inspiring little nugget from Atul Gawande in his book ‘Better’ sums it up much better than me:

“Arriving at meaningful solutions is an inevitably slow and difficult process. Nonetheless, what I saw was: better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.”

Thank you for reading.


Jamie Thom

English teacher, host of @TES English teaching podcast. Author of 'Slow Teaching.' MEd in Practitioner Enquiry, doctorate student #StrathEdD. Runner.

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