Slowing Things Down Enough to Enjoy Them

BrianThere we go, ripping through task after task, that is, if we’re producers. Being a producer is a cultural mandate, and I won’t argue for being a non-producer, just for being a more contented producer. Contentment comes from being like the track star whose speed is adjusted to fit the length of the race, or even a certain part of the race. The star doesn’t run a mile like a sprint, or run the whole mile at uniform speed. In working world terms, that means calibrating the pace to fit the size of the task.080807-olympic-sprinter-ff

Some students need to simply begin running; they are used to a passive mode of being rewarded for showing up, listening a little, and turning in mundane worksheets. Most students, however, are running and just need to form strategies. Writing papers does not lend itself to quick results like picking up a donut at a drive-through. Writing is a process needing rumination, uninhibited composing, structuring, reworking, and on to the finish work to smooth and edit.

stairsIf I give a prompt for a paper without prep assignments leading up to it, many will give me their last hour efforts with sources quickly grabbed and minimally thought through. An instructor, therefore, has to intervene on the front end. Intervention is an uppity term these days for confronting others, but it’s a useful term when not visualized as a talk show or therapy group catharsis tool. The writing instructor intervenes by assigning successive stages leading up to the final draft.

Then students do more thinking and planning—that is if they do the assignments. Weighting all the assignments with a grade encourages participation from start to finish. This is working world thinking applied to school. For example, when my wife and I call our handyman, Roger, to do work at our house, multiple visits are normal. Roger has to prep and sand. Mud might need to be applied, so it has to dry. Extra coats of paint may be indicated. To complete a job, he might come three or four times for half an hour to an hour.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roger’s organizational skills are impressive because he is working a process at several houses, coordinating his movements between houses and the supply store.

Learning often operates the same way. It doesn’t work for students to rip through assignments, only to get poorer results because ideas weren’t given time to surface, set up, and find expression in a process. What Roger, or your handyman, has to do correlates to how one’s better writing develops.

It’s also true that when this is accepted, the race is run with more pleasure, each part being enjoyed for what it is and its place in the whole.





4 comments on “Slowing Things Down Enough to Enjoy Them

  1. xiousgeonz says:

    I am reasonably sure that I would not have been able to complete college had I not taken “researching and writing the term paper” in high school with a teacher that broke the task down into every little section, with deadlines. The night before “have 8 reference cards” for the sources for the second-longest paper (pre-Internet)… welp, my paper was on Saint Francis of Assisi because that’s what we had 8 books about.
    When teachers carry on about how grades are inherently bad, and reduce learning to reward-and-punishment, I think back on that.

  2. xiousgeonz says:

    (But, of course, the breaking-down-done-wrong can lead to ripping through the smaller assignments — it takes a good teacher to build the organization processes along the way!)

  3. […] is a virtue, and it also seems to be the theme of the month.  On April 21, Brian offered some thoughts on the role of patience in students’ mastery of writing. The latest issue of Real Simple (both […]

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