This week, I read Chris Lehmann's blog post, Plan to Letting Go. It really drove me to reflect on the importance of giving our students not just the ability to learn, but the ability to learn and apply their knowledge independently.
I told my students at the beginning of the year that the right answer is not enough. Becoming databases filled with random information on various topics is not developing deep, critical thinkers. Learners need to be able to explain their reasoning, justify their answers, and use their knowledge to apply it to real problems. Students will not gain this ability if they sit all day listening to a teacher disseminate information.
As teachers, we naturally are helpers. When we see a student struggling or making mistakes, we immediately want to jump in and help by giving them the right answer. By doing that, what kind of learning are we fostering? We must guide them towards mastering the ability to think and reason, while instilling in them the confidence to tackle new challenges. It can be challenging and tedious work, especially when you are working with an inclusion class with a large population of English Language Learners. Perseverance is key to success. Then, when it seems that all of the guiding, questioning, and modeling is not making an impact, all of a sudden everything comes together.
I created a class account on Weebly, which provides each student with webspace, and led them through a discussion of how they could use it to prove their learning (I'll share specifics about the portfolio in a later post). The discussion sparked so many ideas from my students; they had so many questions. As they began to work, I expected to have a demand on my attention to give encouragement, redirect attention back to the portfolio, troubleshoot technology issues, and ask guiding questions about the choices they were making to show their first semester learning. However, once they began work, I looked around and not a single student was demanding my attention. They were focused on learning how manipulate Weebly to make it do what they visualized in their heads. When they had a challenge, they turned to one another. One student even "Googled" a tech question to find out how to load something to his Weebly.
The conversations they had with one another were amazing; deep and thoughtful answers were given along with encouragement. They graciously showed one another their work and taught them how to do the same, if they were interested. My learners began to challenge one another to explain how the samples and projects they selected showed how they had met their personal learning goals. Then as the day came to a close, and I told them it was time to sign out and shut down the netbooks, there was an outcry of frustration. They did not want to stop...what were they doing...that's right, creating a form of formative assessment to prove their learning. Who ever hears of students begging to participate in assessment?
As they reluctantly packed up to go catch their buses, I was struck with the reminder that none of this would have happened had I not taken the time to build this framework for their learning and LET GO so they could thrive.
Please take a few minutes and think about your students. Are you giving them the guidance that they need to become motivated, independent learners and thinkers? I know it might be scary to think of letting go and letting them grow. However if you do let go, amazing things will happen.
photo credit: pinelife via photopin cc