As 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 you 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.”