A small, but subtle change I'm forcing myself to make this year.

I don't know specifically when, but some years ago I started making work time a priority. Kids should do stuff while I walked around. The urge to intervene when you watch kids work is very strong and it has taken me a long time to find the patience to leave them be.

The truest mantra I have learned in education is that it takes kids forever to do stuff. No matter how much time I seem to budget, kids need more. Now, I've gotten better at predicting just how much more. I've also gotten better at setting up their work time so that they can be more efficient.

What I have been bad about for a long time is what happens when a kid asks me to intervene. Most of the time it's simple question and answer. That student or several students need something re-explained. My little group units make answering a question for several kids pretty easy to do. If a kid requires more assistance, however, for years and years my response was "can I see your pencil?"

That question had good intentions. There is a clear misconception, the student would like help, I can show them or a make a correction quickly if I do the writing. But I was robbing the kid of the opportunity to make the correction on their own, simply because I didn't want it to take forever.

Now I've been forcing a different response, "do this for me..." and I'll do a little dictation depending on the issue. Sometimes the kid knows exactly what to do, they just need something set up. Other times they need to go through a much longer process. Regardless of need, I'm making sure they do all the writing.

Many, many of you probably read that and went "uh, duh, of course that's what you should do." I know this isn't a giant revelation, but it's a subtle difference I've known I needed to make for a while. I have no empirical evidence that changing who does the writing makes a huge difference, but it just feels like the right move. More of the thinking burden transfers to the student. And maybe, just maybe, they get a more robust answer to their question than just nodding along as I write stuff out.

Is this related to the phenomenon of "I get it when you explain with me, but then you walk away and I'm confused" ? It could be. That statement is something I've been trying to put a damper on too.

AuthorJonathan Claydon