Some years ago, I stumbled across an interesting video from a kennel competition. It was one of those events where dogs are required to perform tricks and run obstacle courses before a panel of judges. As you’d expect, there were several impressive canines on display, but the one that caught my attention was a giant mutt named Molasses. While other dogs zipped through the course with wild abandon, Molasses moved at a snail’s pace. In fact, his name became something of a running joke as many viewers began quoting that old proverb, “As slow as Molasses.”
Still, I couldn’t help but notice that despite his speed, Molasses was quite an exceptional dog. He cleared every hurdle, wound between every poll, and patiently scaled every ramp. While other dogs would get excited and run off course or knock over an obstacle in their haste to finish, Molasses never had a problem. He was arguably the best dog of the bunch, but for all his success, viewers could only see his speed. I don’t know which contestant eventually won the prize of “Top Dog”, but I think we could all learn a thing or two from Molasses.
As educators, many of us are aware that it can be difficult to properly measure academic growth. A student who gets an A+ on a test might know the material, or they could just be a good test taker. Knowing the right information and understanding the concepts behind it are two completely different things after all. The same problem can apply to speed as well. Too often, in our hurry to cover multiple targets, we mistake a slow pace for slow learning.
The truth is that every child learns at their own speed. Being “slow as molasses” is not a bad thing if it allows students to walk away with a clear understanding of the material. While this year has been a particularly difficult time for educators, its sometimes best to return to basics. Slow down, collect yourselves, and give your students an opportunity to reflect. Remember, education is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Reflect on Learning
Here are just a few ways you can help your students slow down and learn:
- Reflection Journals: Give students time to write down their thoughts and questions in a journal. Ask them what they’re curious about. If they’re comfortable, have them share these notes with their classmates.
- Read Aloud: With younger students, consider staging a read aloud of certain books. Not only will this allow them to follow along at the same pace, but it will give them an opportunity to contemplate the subject matter.
- Meditate: If a student is stressed or anxious, they are less likely to focus on the lesson. Take a moment to lead your class through deep breathing exercises to help them relax. Allow them to clear their minds.
- Celebrate Their Strengths: Kids who are slow learners can sometimes suffer from low self-esteem. Make a point to recognize and celebrate each student’s unique talents. Build them up by allowing them to showcase their hidden talents.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “As slow as molasses”, but there’s another old proverb that’s just as common, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Give your students the opportunity to slow down, reflect, and wonder. You may be surprised at what they accomplish!