Is the Tempo Too Slow?

The media features stories of schools and school systems that need urgent change, and thought the reality is less severe than the perception, there are definitely places that need urgent work to craft sustainable solutions that will work. Notice that I didn’t say urgent solutions, but urgent work as sustainable solutions in education take time. I’m not making an excuse that solutions aren’t possible or that quick solutions can’t begin to impact climate, character and things that count, but I feel confident in saying that urgent work is what brings sustainable solutions.


Tempo matters. In sports, tempo matter as it allows for a number of positive things to occur. It fatigues the opponent. It creates a rhythm that allows for teams to build successful habits quickly. Tempo also allows for iteration. Running 80 plays a game gives you a better scope of what is possible from those on the field than running 50 plays a game.


Are there potential downsides to tempo as well? Sure, tempo can lead to mental mistakes. Tempo can lead to fatigue on your own team. Tempo can keep teams from seeing little mistakes that end up getting repeated.


I’m continuing to observe too many places that are playing a game that slows down not only change, but the natural learning rhythm that kids crave. Many classrooms and schools are playing four corners with kids for four quarters. They aren’t playing to win, but playing to avoid getting blown out.


Sports analogies break down over time, but the reality is that many schools are playing at a very low tempo when it comes to change. All the world is playing at a tempo, and then there are schools. A major tempo shift is needed in a number of areas.



Most schools fail to market themselves using all of the means available at a frequency that cuts through the noise of life. This leaves communities, both internal and external, guessing about key talking points, sense of direction for the school or district, and places of success.


Curriculum Design

The fine line between a living curriculum and a dead curriculum is months. As new staff are hired, how do we get them to own the curriculum design. How can they begin to feel like designers instead of implementers. Curriculum design and redesign are happening at a tempo that isn’t keeping up with the changes on the ground.


Discussions about Grading and Scheduling

Everyone sees traditional grading and schedules as things that hinder learning in deep and modern ways. There are even lots of conversations about these changes, but the tempo of implemented changes in this space is incredibly slow. These barriers aren’t going to move themselves, and all that care of about learning and schools need to be pushing for these changes with an intensity that matters.


Building Positive Energy

Tempo brings energy, and there is no easier space to practice tempo than in the area of positive energy. Schools without positive energy can be the worst kind of energy vampire. They can suck the life out of the meetings, classrooms, hallways, and professional learning. It requires a positive tempo to be a part of each day. It requires quick, constant kindness in the form of words


Linking Learning to Life

Our youngest learners see school and life as the same rhythm, but we begin to take them down a different journey as “schooling” begins. How can we keep the tempo up around linking learning to life. Without a break in this disconnect in grades 2-8, we won’t have to spend energy reattaching high school students to why learning matters. This connection requires a tempo that sees schools as having thin classroom walls and require educator to hussle in the community to draw them around the work.