Slow Teaching

I want to start a movement called ‘Slow teaching’ in the same spirit as the Slow Food Movement. The reason is, we’re starving our children, serving them superficial and contrarily highly complicated information instead of soul-building, sustaining basics.

I speak as someone who has just moved from a very small, very unique school where ‘slow teaching’ is mostly standard fare; to a large government school, a very good government school; where compliance to the education department syllabi is adhered to.

Now I must take a group of students through a beautifully written book with several complex themes in a matter of six to eight 30 minute lessons. It’s a thin-ish book but this is a second (or third) language for my students, so they barely understand the story. And I don’t have the time to go slowly enough to explain all the words, or to re-read paragraphs. I can’t take time out to discuss the setting of South Africa and Hillbrow in the 70s, and the strange dynamic between the white teen and the black foreman; I can’t stop and discuss the mother’s drinking and how the drinking of a desperate and overwhelmed widow is different to the binge-drinking of a pleasure seeker. Not being able to discuss these things does no justice to this powerful little book and it does no justice to my students. 

Because a second language is a requirement and not a choice, most of these students will probably never use this language they are learning. But how I wish that at the very least, they could communicate in it. I wish that after our 10 years of instruction they could converse with someone comfortably. Surely that would be the most basic expectation when learning a second language? But unfortunately, the ‘powers that be’ have decided to include superfluous information like delineating storylines, and complex grammar, like clauses, to the syllabus. This kind of ‘super-information’ does the very opposite of what is intended. It does not enrich the meal but thins it out, because it steals time that should be spent on the basics like vocabulary-building, informal conversation times, and reading. Instead of having their tummies filled, this over-pumped knowledge must be skimmed through at a pace which allows no time for deep substantial learning.

The same goes for other subjects. Children battle through complicated mathematical equations but still cannot add, subtract, divide and multiply properly. They know financial and political terminology that would stupefy the average man in the street, but they don’t understand the difference between debit and credit, they haven’t discussed the concept of democracy or capitalism.

And so we push them to attain this mythical achievement called a matric which will open the gateway to life; which in many cases is nothing more than learning a set of forgettable facts and formulas. Something is very wrong with the state of our education system.

By Natalie SimmonsPhoto by Pixabay on Pexels

Sharing is caring!

Uownit-SA is an online publication focused on collecting and publishing valuable and informed opinions from all the people of South Africa, published on the 15th of every month. Send us your views to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *