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Slow Looking (Part 1 of 10)

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” - Dallas Willard

One aspect of slowing down that I’ve enjoyed learning about is slow looking. Slow looking can be defined as, “taking the time to carefully observe more than meets the eye at first glance” (Tishman, 2018, p. 2). As I’ve started to explore the world, I’m often surprised by how much I miss. Gillian Judson often shares that we miss 99% of what is going on around us. Over time, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot of truth to this statement. I’ve also learned why slowing down is so important when it comes to education. Take a look at the following photo for example:

Look at the leaf. Take a second glance. What do you notice? For me, I see the veins in the leaf. I notice that the center part of the leaf is light on the bottom and darker near the top. I wonder why? There is a story to this little leaf. Something has happened here. As educators, we can help children look at clues and enable them to find answers. Without slowing down, however, we would probably walk over this leaf and miss an engaging activity that we could have enjoyed together.

Another component of slowing down includes providing structure for students during activities. Tishman writes, “I became fascinated by how intrinsically engaging slow looking could be with just a little bit of structure to sustain it” (2018, p. 3). When talking with Tishman on my podcast, she shared the following advice. To begin with, make sure that you have a time frame for students. For example, you might say: “Over the next 5 minutes, I would like you to write down 10 things that you notice about this tree.” Without this kind of structure, students could drown in this activity or quickly lose interest.

Next, Tishman suggests that students ask others about their point of view. Asking, “What did you notice?” might help a student see something they would have otherwise missed.

Tishman’s last piece of advice is to learn more about your own lens. Give students time to reflect on this question: “What biases or slants am I bringing to this experience? How could I be more open minded and see things with a fresh perspective?” By taking time to step back and examine their own lens, students may notice something that is brand new to them.

Pretty much every time I spoke with someone on the topic of wonder, the theme of slowing down emerged. We live in a fast-paced world and seem to respect and admire those who move quickly and get things done. In fact, this quality seems to be heroic to most people. When it comes to living a full life, however, I would like to suggest the opposite. Let’s begin to see a slower pace as heroic. Those who slow down are going against the grain, yet I think there is much to gain from their example. Those who slow down start to notice things, really notice. They see the things that others often miss. They hear sounds that no one else hears. They are in the moment. What a way to live!

Tishman, S. (2018). Slow Looking: The Art and Practice of Learning Through Observation. New York, NY: Routledge.

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