“Wisely and slowly, they stumble that run fast.” William Shakespeare – Decision Making
How do we know when the cautious approach is the right one?
Students sometimes rush into decision-making without forethought. They do it on term papers, class projects, and even in their relationships. This approach often causes more heartache and work in the long run. There is a lot to be said about careful slow planning to avoid mistakes, but there’s also an inherent danger in taking the cautious approach. If they spend all of their time planning, then there’s not much left for experimentation and learning from mistakes.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts with Julie Cropp, Principal of Roscoe Middle School in Roscoe, IL, for a conversation about decision making and when being cautious may be the right approach.
Image Source: Flickr
Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re veteran educators who have created the Teach Different podcast to inspire all of us to think deeper, listen with more intention, and understand each other better. On this podcast, we model a conversation method using claims, counterclaims, essential questions, and quotes from some of the world’s great thinkers. The method works with adults and students of all ages, at school or at home, and is implemented using Google forms. So, if you’re a teacher, parent, administrator, social emotional learning specialist, or anybody who wants to think in new ways and help others do the same, you’ve come to the right place.
Well, hello everybody. Welcome to the Teach Different podcast. This week we’re lucky to have William Shakespeare with us and a very interesting quote about decision making. We have one guest, Julie, who’s a principal in Roscoe, Illinois. She’ll be introducing herself in a moment. Just to go over our protocol for our new listeners, we’re going to start with a really cool quote from William Shakespeare, then we’re going to spend some time unpacking the quote to see what the claim of the quote is, and what it means in our own words. Then, we’ll move to the counterclaim, another way to look at the quote, an equally valuable and interesting perspective that competes against the claim. This is where the tension of the conversation comes in, and it gets really fun, because we agree to disagree and see the world from different perspectives. We’ll end with an essential question to wrap things up. To remind everybody, we are doing this podcast as adults, sort of like adult social emotional learning, but the hope is that as you listen to this, if you’re a teacher, principal or instructional designer, that you will use this with students. We’re going to try to give you a picture of what this might look like with students in your classroom. Here we go with William Shakespeare’s quote. I’ll read it a couple times. “Wisely and slowly, they stumble that run fast.” “Wisely and slowly they stumble that run fast.” Julie, what’s going on with this quote? What’s your take on this?
Julie Cropp 02:49 – Claim
Hi, I’m Julie Cropp, principal of Roscoe Middle School. I’ve been the principal there for 17 years, which is a really long time to be principal anywhere. As you said, we are in Roscoe, Illinois, which is just north of Rockford. It’s a great school district, and I’m super blessed to be there. We have worked with you guys a little bit, so I know the process somewhat. When I think of this quote, I think of another million ways I’ve heard this said as a child growing up. Whether that’s the longest way around is the shortest way home, measure twice, cut once, the tortoise and the hare, haste makes waste. There are a million ways that this has been said, but what I think he’s trying to tell us is that you need to take your time, process the information, and make sure you make your decisions after processing everything. Don’t do things quickly.
Steve Fouts 03:45
Kind of like a cautious approach to the world, right? If you want to get somewhere, you have to be careful and think things through. If you try to hurry, you’re going to end up not getting to your destination, or maybe you’ll end up taking longer, ironically, because you didn’t think through the best way to get there. I am with you. I love all those quotes you brought up, Julie. Those are great. They fit perfectly.
Dan Fouts 04:25
I’m thinking of students here and why it’s so hard when we’re younger to move slowly. What is it about youth that makes us stumble and want to run too fast? I guess it depends on the person. Do either of you have a theory as to why that is the case? Why is it harder to do when you’re younger?
Julie Cropp 04:51
I don’t know if it’s necessarily harder. I think that we have a million experiences that happen over time, and so we learn that the short way often ends up being the long way. Even something as simple as watching the kids walk out to the buses. They have to cut through, even if there’s a huge snow pile, they still cut right over it. They won’t stay on the sidewalk. I think it’s everything that they do. They just want to get things done quickly and move on to what they really want to spend their time doing. But, I think we, as adults, have been burned enough times that there are those moments where we stop and reflect and say, okay, you’re not going to catch me again, I’m going to do it right this time.
Dan Fouts 05:30
Right, I’m going to do it right. It makes me think of the goal that we are after, Julie. Thinking about adults and how adults have had a lot of experiences of trying to get something very quickly, and then seeing what happens when it takes a longer time. Then maybe reassessing where you wanted to go. Was it worth it? I think I’m wondering how that comes into this as well, the goals that we are trying to achieve.
Julie Cropp 06:10
I was trying to think of examples of times when you do this. I think sometimes when you are cooking, and you take a shortcut, then you end up with a disaster. That was bad engineering. You don’t want your engineering feats to be shortcuts, because if something goes bad, then that is wrong. Something as simple as driving. How many of us have gone very fast, end up getting a speeding ticket, then the police pull you over, and by the time you get all your information you’re later than you were. Even though I’m going to be two minutes late, I’m not going to speed because I know where this really leads me. I do think that as you grow, you have those examples, and you just don’t want to get burned again.
Dan Fouts 06:53
Yeah. It’s because you make mistakes and you experience what happens when it takes longer than what you intended. I’m wondering if there’s a way to convince a kid that you should be cautious without having them experience all the failures of what happens when you’re trying to do things too quickly? Is there a way to argue for that?
Julie Cropp 07:32
I think that’s what we as educators, and we as parents, want to always do. I think often you have to learn that the stove is hot by touching it. We can tell you a million times, but you still have to be burned by it. But, I do think that is our goal. Because of COVID, we started an SEL time in the morning for our students. These are the kinds of things that we want to help our kids with. We want to have these conversations, whether it’s just learning how to dialogue, the claim and counterclaim, but also taking the time to do things right. The reason your math teacher wants you to write out all of the steps is because then they can see what’s wrong with it. Maybe you could go back and fix one thing versus having to do the entire problem all over again, right? How many kids fight this year after year, doing it the long way. They just don’t want to do it quickly. Eventually, they have to have something kick them in the head, I guess.
Dan Fouts 08:27
I’m a high school social science teacher. There’s nothing more frustrating for a student than when they put together a hastily prepared piece of work. You look at it, you take a big gulp, and you essentially have to say, you’re going to need to start over. You went into this way too quickly. You didn’t really think about what you wanted to argue, or what you wanted to say. You just wanted to get something on paper to get it done. So, to your point, Julie, I think that kids have to actually make this mistake, and we, as adults, have to say, do it over. Right? That has to be the consistent message, otherwise, they don’t learn it.
Julie Cropp 09:21
Yeah. If I can caution parents who feel bad for their kid and decide to rewrite the paper for him/her, because there are tears. A lot of times you’re taking away that lesson, and those are things, as an educator and as a mom, that I’ve had to learn. Sometimes we think we’re helping, but we’re really not. We’re preventing them from really getting where we want them to be in the long run. So actually, haste makes waste even for us, right?
Steve Fouts 09:47
That’s exactly it.
Dan Fouts 09:48
I have a quick little personal story I just remembered from 22 years ago. I’m going into my 29th year, so this was early in my career. Ed was his name, I remember. He produced this terrible paper in history. I had a good positive relationship with him as a student, so he respected me and I respected him. He turned it in, and this was not natural for me to do, but I felt like it was the right moment to do it. I held him after class, I looked at Ed, he looked at me, I took his paper and I just ripped it, and put it in the recycling. Again, this is in March. I would never have done this in September, because I didn’t know him. But I knew him. He smiled. He knew that I had called him on it. I have to say that about 10 years later, after he graduated, I sat down to have lunch with him, and he said, that moment, when you ripped up my paper, made me realize that I could do serious academic work, and I wasn’t doing it. You called me out on it.
Steve Fouts 11:08
You’ve never told me this.
Dan Fouts 11:10
I have not, Steve. I can’t believe I haven’t. Yeah, Ed. Well, he ended up being a teacher. Okay, enough about me. Go back to the discussion. But that was really fun.
Julie Cropp 11:21
Yeah, that’s great.
Steve Fouts 11:23
The theme is be cautious, be wise. You could break down some of those. Read the quote again, Dan.
Dan Fouts 11:31
Wisely and slowly they stumble that run fast.
Steve Fouts 11:36
Yeah, I love the words in this. They’re very accessible. Wisely is probably the most complicated word, but these are all clear. It’s just saying be cautious before you act, before you decide on where you’re headed. Here I go with the counterclaim. This is my role. I’m going to blow this party up. What do you think? I like to blow the party up by asking you what you think. I have a clear counterclaim to this. Julie, I’ll ask you if you’d like to share what you have in mind as a really good argument against this quote. It’s not that it’s wrong, but maybe it’s not advice for all situations, all contexts, all people. So, Julie, I’m going to put it on you.
Julie Cropp 12:36 – Counterclaim
Okay. It’s interesting, because I talk about how we spend years trying to teach kids this, but you can see some strong counterclaims. First of all, if we think about the fact that this quote actually comes from Romeo and Juliet, and matters of the heart rarely go slowly, as much as we want them to, feelings are feelings. In the world of education, when I look at students, if we really stop and try to process everything to the link that we probably want to or need to, we will never get anything done. My perfect example of why this probably isn’t always the way to go is when we decided to go to one to one devices, Chromebooks. That was new to us, and we were trying to figure it out. We did some professional development, and we had a lot of sessions sitting around and talking about it. Had we taken the time to wait until everyone felt ready and all questions were answered, we probably never would have gotten there. We had to, sort of kicking and screaming, throw ourselves in there. We’re going to have a lot of mistakes, but we would fix the mistakes on our terms and be able to do that. We were so lucky that we did this well before COVID and the world shutting down, because our teachers were very versed on how to teach through Google classroom with devices. So, I think sometimes you need to just jump in, and just do it, and see what happens.
Steve Fouts 14:13
That’s the quickest way to learn. You notice how that’s different from the quickest way to your goal. Maybe that’s what you should be doing. Making mistakes is okay, and going quickly. Hey, when you go quickly, you usually make mistakes really quickly, so maybe that’s a good thing. I get you. That makes sense to me.
Dan Fouts 14:42
Yeah. It’s hard to add to that. I think that’s great. I’m thinking about riding a bike. Steve, you know this. This is a typical family story. I learned how to ride a bike by jumping on and just falling hundreds of times. I wasn’t interested in studying how other people were doing it, how they were balancing themselves. I just wanted to jump on and do it. You, on the other hand, Steve, would sit back and observe more before doing it, before taking the risks and experimenting, right?
Steve Fouts 15:18
I don’t know. I’m surprised with your stories today. You didn’t share any of this.
Dan Fouts 15:27
That absolutely was the case. Anyway, risk and experimentation is a great way to learn. Sometimes I’ll tell this to the kids, I’ll say, multiply your mistakes. If you’re in a rut, don’t think carefully. Dive in, multiply your mistakes and learn faster. Which is essentially what this counterclaim is saying.
Julie Cropp 15:54
I listened to a podcast on getting stuck, or getting unstuck, and it was talking about engineering students at MIT. When they get stuck on something, they want them to just make a move. They said, what will happen when you make a move is that you’re either going to know you’re moving in the right direction, or you’re going to be going in the wrong direction, but you’ve done something. Many people will perseverate, and think and think, and think, and they go nowhere. I do think sometimes you just have to jump in. But, it does cause me to wonder if this is a personality trait, or is this something that we teach people? Are certain kids more prone to jumping in and being more of your risk takers while other kids are going to sit back to watch other kids? That’s another level? That’s a great question.
Dan Fouts 16:43
I think it is a personality trait. This is just anecdotal evidence from students that you’ve had and from your own life about why you do what you do. If it is a trait, Julie, then maybe this is what makes teaching so hard, right? We have to take the experimenters and teach them a little bit of caution, and we have to take the cautious ones and say, jump in and do something. I feel like maybe our role and responsibility then is to show students the other side, based on whatever their nature is,
Steve Fouts 17:20
And not pretend like we’re perfect. We know that there’s another side. We don’t ever want to have a kid in our class go through 180 days being the most cautious, timid thing in the world without our influence. For the boisterous one, who’s always doing things, we want to be able to show them that other side. It’s a tough one. I’m not going to pretend that I have it figured out. I really don’t.
Julie Cropp 17:56
That’s the beauty of education and what so many people who aren’t in it don’t necessarily see. Sometimes the curriculum itself isn’t really the ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is when that kid comes back and says, hey, you ripped up my paper, but that motivated me to be where I am today, because I had to redo something. It had nothing to do with the paper itself. I don’t even know if you’d remember, Dan, what the paper was on. He remembered that moment, and realized, I’m capable of something.
Dan Fouts 18:25
Yeah, it triggered something in his head that he needed to do something differently. I didn’t plan that out. It was just one of those moments, a teaching moment that you fall into, that made it authentic. I’m thinking back to the first few years of teaching. Oh my God, you want to talk about having to make mistakes. I mean, you have to stumble fast. You have to stumble consistently every day and make mistakes quickly. You don’t really have the luxury of sitting in front of a class with no teaching experience, and proceeding wisely and cautiously. Things are moving very quickly. That would be a personal experience I would share with the students as an adult. Here’s what it was like when I started out in the profession, and here’s what I learned from it.
Julie Cropp 19:20
This last year and a half teachers, parents and kids, had to do things differently than we’d ever done before. We all sort of stumbled together multiple times and got better at these things. We have a year and a half to show the kids that we can persevere. We can make mistakes, and we are smarter on the other end of it.
Dan Fouts 19:46
That’s a really good treatment of the counterclaim. We never really ask this in these podcasts, but which of these two do you see as true, the claim or the counterclaim? Personally, I’m closer to the counterclaim. I want to get places. I need to make mistakes quickly and learn from experience. If I’m cautious, I feel like I’ve got the FOMO, as they say, the fear of missing out. That drives me. I’ve always thought that the fear of missing out is really a question of do you fear missing out, or do you fear losing something of value that you already have? Those fears determine whether you’re going to be cautious, or you’re going to take chances, and they’re both right and wrong at the same time. So, I’m more counterclaim if you’re asking. Julie, what about you?
Julie Cropp 20:50
You know, it’s funny. I think when it comes to matters of finance, I’m probably more cautious, and think things through. I think in almost every other aspect of my life I’m not cautious. I tell people all the time that 90% of my job is spent dealing with conflict and decision making. Do you have a second? Can you decide this? I don’t have time in my day to stop and really reflect. Sometimes it’s easier to make a decision, get people going, and then, if it didn’t work, they’ll come back. But, if it worked, good, keep on moving, go to the next thing. So, I think I’m kind of a blend. I guess if I was going to think of the essential question, it’s how do you know when to push for caution, and when do you push for moving forward? Right? Wouldn’t that be kind of where we’re headed with this? I don’t know.
Dan Fouts 21:39 – Essential Question
Great minds think alike, Julie. Here’s the one I came up with that is really similar to that. How do we know when the cautious approach is the right one? That’s tough. Maybe in finances it is best to be cautious, but in other areas it depends on the individual. It probably depends on the stage of life you’re in. You’ll have different perspectives on this.
Julie Cropp 22:06
Maybe something else that you can add to this when you’re working with kids is how do you know? The only way you know is through reflection. I think that so many people grow by reflecting on something. So, whether we decided to make haste or whether we decided to move slowly, when all was said and done, and we stopped and thought about it, would we have been better to have done it the other way? Then you learn from that. So, I think that reflection piece is also great when you do things like this.
Steve Fouts 22:38
Reflection helps people not make lifelong mistakes. I agree. I think if you reflect, you can do and be whatever.
Dan Fouts 22:49
You can think back on which approach you took. If it was a cautious approach, was that the right one? If you went quickly, was that the right one? So, the reflection is where the main learning happens. Yeah. Well, really great. Julie, this was an excellent conversation and a great perspective. I think this is a quote that students could definitely connect with and share personal experiences of when they’ve had to move slowly, or when they’ve had to move quickly, and what were the consequences. Hopefully they would share some good experiences with the rest of the class to explore that.
Julie Cropp 23:42
I just wanted to thank you guys for letting me be here today. It was great for me. We had the chance to have you guys come out to work with our staff back in January, 2019. As I said, we started that SEL program just last year, but we were making things up as we were going and then some of our teachers brought you guys to the forefront and said, Hey, what about these guys? I thought, oh my gosh, yes. You guys are exactly where we want to head with our SEL program. I am just excited to work with you guys, again. But, I’m also excited to ask others to bring you guys in and have you help out. To me, this is a big issue, not only with adolescents, but in our country in general. People can’t have discord and conversations. If we can start with these young kids and have them do that, I think we’re all going to be better. So, I appreciate what you guys are doing for us.
Steve Fouts 24:35
Thank you, Julie.
Dan Fouts 24:36
Thank you very much. We appreciate you, your school, and working with your faculty. It takes a village to take on some of these issues. Thank you so much, Julie. Best of luck this year. It will be a very interesting adjustment year for all of us. We’ll do our best.
All right, take care. Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas and are confident that conversations like this are possible with just a little bit of planning and a 3-step method. Make sure you visit our Conversation Library where we have many conversations like this, each with a different quote and a sample claim, counterclaim, and an essential question to get you started. Good luck and don’t forget to Teach Different with conversations and make a difference every day.