Responsiblity: the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization. This is but one definition of responsibility, but it is the one that I believe best fits the world I am attempting to build in room 219. Beyond teaching them gerunds and rhetorical devices, I also want my kids to learn about the value of being responsible, but as with many things in room two-one-nine, I approach it a little differently. I expose my kids to responsibility by letting go. I am not convinced that learning responsibility requires a realm, rigid with restrictive rules. For while it may work in the short term, forcing compliance, it is often only a disguise for responsibility, and it fades from sight as kids leave the set of that particular stage, only able to remember the lines when the script is in hand. Instead of forcing compliance, I believe we should seek commitment. I believe we should give kids the freedom, the opportunity to make decisions independently. And that means we have to let go. But, importantly, we need to understand that this cannot happen all at once. No, to be sure, it is a slow, gradual process. Learning about responsibility is a monumental undertaking, and there can be serious consequences when our youngsters find freedom. Our letting go must be slow. This past week, I gave the kids some rein, letting them have their heads a little as we near the midpoint of our journey this year.
So, as most know, cellphones are an issue–have been and will be. They’re not going away any time soon, and it’s likely it will get worse before it gets better as educators struggle to find an answer to the dilemma. For me, discovering the best cell-phone policy has been a long journey, demanding more of my energy and time than I dare admit. Hate ‘em. Plain and simple. They are a huge distraction, and I often long for the “good old days” when things were simpler, and kids just passed notes. But those days are gone, and we have a new reality. Grudgingly, I am beginning to accept that new reality; consequently, this new-found acceptance has led to yet another cell-phone policy this year.
This year, I have tried the “brain break.” Roughly half way through the period, I give my kids a three-minute brain break, a time when they can talk, stretch, relax, and…use their phones. Really it should probably be called the “phone break,” for that is what nearly every kid does, but I feel better about calling it a brain break. In the end, it is what it is, and even if I don’t love the fact that they are on their phones, it is their time, and I let them have it, but the other 52 minutes are mine, and phones are put away; on that, I do not budge. Somewhat surprisingly, it has gone better than expected, and I have discovered that giving them a little bit of freedom has resulted in my best year in regards to dealing with cellphones. It is working. And though the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I “fixed it” and let go a little more. I took a risk. Now, on the days when the kids are working, I have decided to let them decide when to take their brain breaks, asking them to keep it to the agreed-upon three minutes, letting them know that I trust them. I am giving them an opportunity to play with responsibility, an opportunity to rehearse in a role that will possibly have long-term implications. The results? Well, so far, so good. Of course, there are a few who need a knowing glance from me at times, but that’s part of the deal. After all, I am still the director in this drama.
Have a terrific Tuesday, all. Remember to check out the Weekly Wonder if you have not had the chance. http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=288