Letting Go

kindergarten-clip-art-teacher_miss2As a teacher, it is extremely important to remember the fine line between supporting and babying a student. Learning happens best when teachers allow it to happen – when they step back and allow students to take ownership of their own learning. Grant Wiggins, author of Great Teaching Means Letting Go, states that “our instincts as teachers cause us to over-help rather than under-help.”

He is absolutely right. It is absolutely our instincts to over-help students, and definitely outside our realm of comfort to sit back and allow students to come to their own conclusions, when we can push them just a bit further to help them come to the same conclusion just a bit earlier.

In his article, Grant Wiggins compares teaching to coaching soccer. He states that when he was coaching soccer, he spent weeks learning drills and moves to help his team succeed. However, when his team was ready to use the moves in gameplay, he states it was “like we never learned it.” Mr. Wiggins says that his greatest learning as a teacher came on the soccer field. He says that “you have to be able, on your own, to size up when to use what Soccer-Ballyou previously learned… analyze the challenge, and judge what to do, mindful of a repertoire of prior learnings; then, implement a purposeful move, and assess its effect.”

Teaching is definitely similar. As teachers, we cannot teach students one strategy for every single concept they may ever come across. We can, however, teach them how to use one strategy in multiple ways, in order to achieve multiple results. Mr. Wiggins even compares running soccer drills to test preparation: “test preparation done right would mean that students gain practice in drawing from their repertoire with no teacher prompting… where there is no prior warning about what specifically is going to be on the test.”

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Letting Go

5 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. Dixie Shoemaker says:

    It is hard for us, isn’t it? We teach and teach, and then students encounter a new type of problem and look at you like that haven’t learned a thing! As teachers, we have to find that balance between supportive and spoon feeding. We have to incorporate a variety of examples and tasks which allow and force students to manipulate what they learn in new and different ways, so that the skills they need to analyze and use knowledge in new situations builds in them, giving them a solid base. We have to give them “scrimmages” in the classroom with real world activities that utilize skills and concepts we have taught them, and then back off and let them work it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alice Lasseter says:

    For teachers it is super hard sometimes to let go and let the students become independent. I like the points that you made about giving the students a variety of techniques on how to do something, so that in any given situation they will be able to find an answer. Teachers also have to give students many experiences and opportunities to complete a challenge/or do a scrimmage on their own. Taking a step back is hard for teachers and coaches, but is a necessary step in order for our students to succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Melanie says:

    I like that you pointed out that there is a fine line between helping and babying students. I believe there are many student incapable of taking control of their own learning because they have been babied and spoonfed information. I teach my students to work independently on many activities after the concept has been initially introduced. I do not often hear my students say that they can’t do it or can I help them. Because they know my answer is for them to try their best first. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I do not want to help my students. I want them to be confident in their abilities to complete an assignment without me helping them throughout each step. However, I have witnessed these spoon fed kids while teaching after school tutoring. These students had trouble completing ANYTHING without asking me to help them. I think that we, as teachers, need to let go and teach our kids how to be more independent and take control of their learning. I LOVE that you pointed out we can’t possibly prepare our students for every problem they encounter. However, we can prepare them to approach each problem using a strategy in various ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also struggle with over-helping students. Others have helped me see that my frustration with student helplessness can be explained in many ways. I am still struggling to find my way through it.

    Like

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