On Moving and Thinking Slowly

Summer Institutes - Mary Asgill

As a child, among the best times I’ve had in my life were my summer visits to rural Louisiana to sit on the front porch with my great grandmother to think through her paradoxical questions and watch the sunrise. She would rise from bed, put one foot on the ground, ask me a question no eight-year-old could possibly answer, put the other foot on the ground, breathe deeply, then start her day: pick lemon grass from the garden, brew tea for us, get her bible, and walk outside to the front porch to have communion with God, Stella (her canary), Jacko (her dog), and me, her tiny visitor from New Orleans, a place she said “moved like it was on fire.” She would spend an hour or so reading the bible to me and asking me questions about life, love, and all things that required me to slow down and think before I attempted an answer.

I didn’t know it at the time, but as I would reflect on those visits through a series of writings done in myriad teacher seminars via the Great Valley Writing Project in California, I began to develop a philosophy that has shaped my life as a mother, wife, teacher, and former child of a frenzied life: slow is good. I move slowly. I think slowly. I learned to wake up early so that I could wrap myself in the stillness of the morning, so that I could harness the peace to carry me through my day, so that I could slow my pace if I forgot to breathe. I learned to slow my thinking so that I could think well.

Because I intend to continue my focus on thinking well, I take (free) online courses – one my sister-in-law, Dr. Claudette Asgill, introduced me to called Coursera, where I discovered the class Social Psychology – designed to introduce students “to classic and contemporary social psychology, covering topics such as decision making, persuasion, group behavior, personal attraction, and factors that promote health and well-being,” as the course’s professor, Dr. Scott Plous, writes.

My purpose in taking the course and joining Social Psychology Network (SPN) is to continue to stay focused on thinking well. Good thinking requires slow, deliberate movement: learning and unlearning, making mistakes, relearning. It requires the know-how to find peace in the middle of storms. It requires that I understand current realities and create new realities to help me solve problems and work through tough situations. Thinking well requires that I continue to grow at my own pace – so that through and with my students, I change the world one idea at a time.

So, I am part of SPN because I cherish good thinking. I am a teacher from a small town who wants to give the gift of slow moving and good thinking to my students, as my great grandmother, in her small town, gave to me. Though she is no longer on this earth, she is with me, drinking lemon grass tea on the porch, asking mind-blowing questions that enhance my thinking, watching new sunrises every day. SPN is one of those new sunrises.

Have you discovered any (free) online courses that have enhanced your thinking in some way? If so, how has connecting with people from around the world honed your thinking skills?

Jot me a line…and remember that life is always good – no matter what.