A while back I read a great article that I found in the December 2007- January 2008 edition of Focus on Dalian, “Slowly By Slowly” by Rob Giebitz. This was the first piece Rob wrote for his monthly column, ‘The eXpat Manager’. The article starts:
“I first heard this phrase from our Chinese production manager. I have to admit that at first it sounded like just another Chinglish phrase.”
Chinglish is a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English and refers to spoken or written English which is influenced by Chinese.
“Those odd sounding phrases that often amuse the native English speaker, those Chinglish phrases, may offer a key to understanding our host culture. “Slowly by slowly” may carry some meaning absent from the more familiar “little by little” or “step by step” that a native English speaker would use. “Little” indicates size or quantity, “step” implies distance; “slowly” brings our attention to the element of time.”
China is a world of contrasts. In one moment I could be exasperated by how long a simple process takes to be completed and in another moment I could be absolutely amazed at how quickly something can be accomplished. It can be small procedural things, major undertakings, or even something cultural.
Our neighbouring school has undergone some significant renovations recently, with LCD touch screens and book projectors in every classroom. Elementary classes have been moved from rows to table groups and I even got to witness a wonderful activity with table groups reporting out to a student presenter at the front of the room: Each group getting it’s turn with their own representative standing to deliver their contribution, and a small round of applause after each turn ~ A wonderful blend of East meets West. Then I learn of the minimum two weekly tests in every subject, and in visiting our school, a Grade 1 teacher from their school asked our Grade 1 teacher: “These are great assignments you have on your walls, how do you do all this and still prepare your students for University?”
Slowly by slowly.
And as I look back to the West, I see progress. I see educators connected to learning networks and learning communities. I see edubloggers and educational leaders presenting forward-thinking ideas… focused on pedagogy, empowering learners, and meaningful application of technology. I see global collaboration, teachers reflecting on their practice, students sharing their work with experts and the world. I see pocket of brilliance. What I don’t see is the big picture changing.
Step by step. Little by little. Slowly by slowly.
How do we move beyond incremental changes, one-teacher-at-a-time, to system-wide change?
How do we meaningfully lead the (r)evolution of education?
What does it take to create a new paradigm, where we question everything and make agile, meaningful changes to (a collective) ‘our’ practice?
There are times when we need to take stalk of our own impatience and accept that things take time, that we need to appreciate that things happen slowly by slowly. But I believe, I want to believe, that a shift in education is not something we need to wait for. How do we create the shift, now?
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