Friday, April 4, 2014

Year 4: Week 28 – Doing Too Much

Wednesday was frustrating. For my sixth grade band, class I write the whole lesson on the board. The idea is that they walk into the room, sit down, get their instrument out, put their music in the order that’s on the board and start to warm up. If they find that there’s any issues with their instrument or if they are missing music they can ask me for help within the first two minutes of class.
This seems pretty reasonable, right? How hard can this be?

One of my band classes took 13 minutes to fully get ready for class. After the first warm-up I had people asking me what we were playing and other students had issues with their instruments they didn’t tell me about at the beginning of the class.

This was really frustrating. We’ve been working through this same routine in my class since late September. As annoyed as I was in the moment, I’ve been realizing that some of this is my fault for not helping my students understand what this is really all about.

We do for our students so that they will eventually do for themselves. We help little kids zip up their jackets knowing that eventually they will learn how to do this. We set up art supplies so students can do art projects, again, knowing that some day they can handle all of this set up.

The tricky part is that transition from doing things for kids and teaching them how to do it themselves. The thing is that this takes time. Also, it means that the jobs that we ask kids to do will be done very poorly as they learn how to do them.  This  as a teacher can get very frustrating. So often, we figure it’s not worth the time and then we just do it for the students so we can get on with the lesson.

We all fall into this trap of over helping students because we care and we want to help them. We’re teachers, our natural instinct is to help and to assist. However at the same time we need to keep the long range in perspective and know that at some point we have to teach kids how to take care of their own business.

The following day in band class I wrote the lesson plan on the board and we got to work and when a student asked me what we were doing I didn’t help him. I had already pointed out on the board the plan and verbally gave the directions so I told him that his confusion was his fault and to try to figure out what to do himself.  If he was lost, well, that’s his consequence of not taking responsibility for what he needed to do as student.

That wasn’t something I enjoyed saying, but sometimes we can only do so much. If we help too much then students will rely on us to give them what they need as opposed to having them seek out what they need from resources outside of the teacher.

If you ask students to do something, then you need to let them try to do it for themselves.  Sometimes this means that they will not get it done in a timely way.  Sometimes you help them figure it out and other times you have to let them struggle.  Often it's not easy to know how much help to give.  So we have to make sure we focus on the students as people and help them grow as a human being.

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