Letting go. Last night I responded to a comment (http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=83) from Alexsandra Harris, a former student teacher who is now in her first year of teaching up in Alaska. She, too, is exploring independent learning projects with her students, and she was curious about whether the procrastination would eventually subside, resulting in kids not waiting until the last minute. I essentially told her probably not, and while that may not be the ideal reality, I have come to accept that it’s the real reality. I am learning to let go. I have to. It’s their project, and with their autonomy comes their responsibility. And even though I know this, I preach this, it is hard to let go.
I also responded to Cheney grad, now first year kindergarten teacher, Amanda Bahrenburg’s comment (http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=204) last night regarding the role of mistakes in learning, and while I was responding, I was struck by and am still this morning thrilled by the fact that she is instilling this growth mindset in those so young. And this, too, on some level requires letting go. But it’s not always easy for we teachers can be susceptible to the default setting of being fixers instead of supporters when kids struggle. And though fixing is efficient in the short term, it is not always effective in the long term, often times creating learned helplessness among our kids. Kids have to struggle. It’s how they learn. And that means we have to let them. We have to let go. I am thrilled and thankful that Amanda has already discovered the courage and wisdom to let her youngsters love their mistakes.
In class yesterday, I practiced letting go. I did different by giving my students the autonomy to decide as to whether to take notes or not. Now to be fair, their autonomy here is somewhat influenced by my offering a carrot–the ability to use notes on assessments, so sense dictates direction, and most take notes. But Josh didn’t. And immediately, not entirely comfortable with his autonomy, I swooped in to “fix” the situation. Hey, it’s tough to let go. I inquired about his choice. And he indicated that he never used his notebook on assessments anyway, so he was opting out, not out of laziness or spite, for he always does well. And now I realize that on his own level, in his own way, Josh was letting go. The notes had always been there in the past, a crutch if necessary, but now out of what I hope is confidence, he has exercised his autonomy, and he will face the next assessment on his own. And in Josh’s courage, I find courage, courage to let go.
Still, courage or no, I will no doubt falter at times and swoop in for the fix, for I am not sure I can ever completely let go. My mom taught me this. All of our parents taught us this. And though there were times more pronounced than others when we wanted our parents to let go, we never wanted them to fully let go, and for me, that’s still true at 44.
My mom, on most days, is probably the first to read my blog. She is, as I might have said at 16, “in my business.” In my December 17 post I had omitted a word and Mom swooped in to fix it, calling me and leaving multiple messages–she still doesn’t realize that I can see missed calls and she doesn’t always have to leave a message telling me she called. Worried it was an emergency, I called her back, only to discover that I needed to fix my blog. Oh, mom. Still can’t let go, can you? Even now, at 44 with a job and family of my own, you have to be there. Well, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want you to let go, not entirely. And I suspect on some level, as I, too, have discovered as a parent, you can’t.
And so, maybe, it’s the same in the classroom. I have to let go for their sake, but for my sake, I hope they never allow me to fully let go. It’s both thrilling and frightening for me to have Josh go it alone. He’s growing; he’s learning. I just hope that he still needs me. It’s tough to let go.