“Clock” Time and Moving Slowly

Nicole Land thinking with Angela Chow, Angélique Sanders, and Kassandra Rodriguez Almonte

Angela has been thinking about slowing down within moving and asking “what is happening here” on our walks, which is making me think of the work that slowing down does. Kassandra has been thinking about perspective, which I think ties to slowing down because I think that we can think of speed as a perspective: adult slow walking opens up different ways of noticing at a different tempo than children’s slow walking. Adult running, where we are confident in our balance and run from point A to point B, orients us to differently than children’s running, where tumbling and zigzagging and yelling cause us to notice differently. 

I am thinking this especially around our practices of doing time and slowing down. I’m thinking about Angela’s suggestion that slowing down might be a way to intervene in an adult-controlled, outcome-oriented world. I am thinking of Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Kathleen Kummen’s (2016) work on “clocking practices” and “living by clock time” in ECE, and how this creates certain possibilities for life: life that has routines governed by limited quantities of time (and how clock time makes time feel scarce, so we never want to ‘waste’ time and always want to be ‘productive’); life that thinks time and development as sequential, linear, outcome-driven processes where we are in constant pursuit of reaching a pre-determined outcome. Following clock time, going for walks might be about accomplishing a walk in a set block of time and would be concerned with how walking helps us to achieve something (a learning outcome, exercise, outdoor time). Clock time, in Euro-Western logic, is a representation that matters because of how it shapes our everyday interactions – and, if we think of time as something active, as a practice, clock time becomes something we can do otherwise. We can have ways of doing time that are not status-quo (regulatory, segmented, sequential, limited). Pacini-Ketchabaw and Kummen (2016) put this type of governmental, controlling clocking practice into conversation with questions of living well together: how are we living together when we centre relations with clock time and strict clock-mediated routines? How does clock time align with our pedagogical intentions? What ways of being and living well together might we open up when we do not ground our relations with time in clock time? 

I’m thinking about Angela and Kassandra’s noticing of how walking slowly changes how walking happens – how walking shifts to tippy toes and demands different things of our bodies. I want to take this super seriously as a moment where slowing down shifts how we get to know a place or live well within a place. I think that this works on multiple levels: slowing down literally refuses the urgency and guilt of feeling like we need to always adhere to clocking practices (where might think, there’s never enough time). Slowing down disrupts the idea that we always need to be moving quickly, keeping on track, travelling through a place to get to another place (where we might think, we have to be back because at 11 we do this). And then slowing down is also, I think, a way for us to notice things that clock time doesn’t often have space for, because with clock time we have to watch the clock. Walking on tippy toes and leaning my body forward to go slowly down the ramp means I need to trust the stroller a lot because it is giving me balance, which layers another way of thinking about the stroller; a relationship of trust with the stroller. Walking tip-toe means that I might move with the material of the floor or my shoe differently – when I can no longer take for granted that my shoe is securely anchored to the floor, I might have to notice the floor, to pay attention to how it is slippery and where it has little bumps. By doing this, I’m becoming differently entangled with my world; I’m noticing how my moving is shaped by the floor and how I might respond to the floor and the slower speed of the stroller. This adds another layer of thinking with the stroller; the stroller as something I need to respond to/with as part of my world (not a thing that’s just there). 

These things opened up by slowing down really matter, I think. If we think this moment with clock time, we might think that slowing down is children experimenting with moving their bodies at another speed which is good, because proper development means children need to be capable and competent movers at multiple speeds. But if we think slowing down as a way of noticing our world, of taking on another perspective to shift what we notice, slowing down becomes much, much more rich. It’s a way of noticing right now-ness – of being, like Angélique you always remind us, in the moment. 

Pacini-Ketchabaw and Kummen (2016) offer two provocations that I think might be interesting to think with slowing down. I’ve bolded a couple sentences that I think might be especially interesting to think with while walking:

“Rather than privileging clock time, which dominates early childhood education, we narrate temporalities that do not necessarily view time as a container. More specifically, the temporalities we highlight are not anthropocentric understandings of time, which, as the narrative of the Anthropocene tells us, privilege unsustainable forms of life (Metcalf and Van Dooren, 2012). Time, in these multispecies narratives, is embodied time. Embodied time extends the concept of time beyond a human-centred representation to acknowledge temporal diversities such as the generations of living beings, ecological times, synchronicities, intervals, patterns and rhythms” (p. 433)

“In the 21st century, and at a time of so much loss within ecologies, taking temporal frames seriously in early childhood pedagogies means learning ‘to become loose and multiple’ (Metcalf and Van Dooren, 2012: viii) in our understandings of time, rather than adhering to regulated clocking practices. It means learning to notice what and who else is there with us in the forest, in the playground and in other places we inhabit with children. It means learning to pay attention to which times are liveable and which are not – learning to synchronize ourselves across many and varied temporal horizons. ‘Knots of ethical time’ in common world pedagogies highlight human/non-human entanglements and reposition time as a situated more-than-human concern, challenging Cartesian sequential time. In engaging with non-human times in common world pedagogies, we are not necessarily suggesting that these times should become our new tools to think with. In other words, we are not suggesting that educators replace the clock that regulates their practices with deer time or rust time or crow time. Instead, we want to highlight that these knots of time bind us together and, in doing so, become relations of obligation. Working with common world pedagogies obliges us to recognize the diversity and the entanglement of multiple times in children’s common worlds, and to make more and deeper connections and commitments to them” (p. 439)

I like this idea, that we need to think which times are liveable and which are not, and that this doesn’t mean refusing clock time totally. Clock time matters, but not as the only time possible. Put with our questions, what relations or movements does moving slowly together open up? How do we move slowly in ways that contribute to living well together? When we ask, “what happened here”, of moving slowly, what might we notice? How does moving slowly shift how we move together?

I think also the idea that time, and moving slowly, binds us together in a knot of obligation. I think another way of thinking this might be to wonder together how slowing down activates relations and ways of moving together that implicate us differently, or make us notice how we are entangled, in this place and in our world. How does moving slowly create possibilities for us to get to know a place or our moving differently? 

Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Kummen, K. (2016). Shifting temporal frames in children’s common worlds in the Anthropocene. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood17(4), 431-441.

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