Have you ever had those moments when you realize, "Man, you've got a long way to go." I get those moments all the time as a teacher. I've been at this for 12 years now, and looking back I can see the growth I've experienced. But, looking ahead, I can see all the growth still to come.
One of the biggest hurdles for me has always been giving up control in my classroom. Maybe I'm a control freak, maybe I'm OCD, maybe I'm both. It's just hard for me to do. One thing is sure, as hard as it is for me to say...some of it lies in my expectations for my students being set too low. I should know better by now, after 12 years of teaching (at least in my opinion) the absolute best students, that I'm pretty sure I can throw just about anything at them, and they're knock it out of the park. And yet giving up control is still tough to do. But, as usual, the kids showed me the error of my ways.
I am working with an incredible group of seniors in a government class right now. I've worked with some of these kids for 4 years. If you're wondering, no, it is not lost on me how blessed I am to have been in a position to have seen their growth in this formative time in their lives. The thought of them graduating has me getting a little emotional right now...so back to my post! We've been talking about the "why" of the Constitution- its inspiration, its debates, why it exists as it does. We recently focused on the debate between the groups known as Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and I asked them to read parts of the writings from both groups, discuss them in small-groups, and then consider how each side would have responded to a set of prompts. Going into discussion day, I knew it would be a great discussion. Again, the product of awesome kids. And then the discussion began. One period later, as the kids left the room to head to their next period, I realized that I had barely spoken the entire period. Had I established the basis for the discussion? Yeah. Had I provided resources to the groups? Sure. Did I steer the discussion? No way. That was all the kids. In the end product, the discussion itself, the one thing around which the lesson revolved, I had exhibited zero control. And I LOVED IT! I couldn't help but think, what if I hadn't set the prompts, what if the kids themselves had written them? What if I had given up even more control? Does good teaching have to involve the teacher?
Just so you know, I still think the answer to the last question is yes (I'm not in the middle of an existential crisis). Instead, I'm pretty sure I'm just seeing a reality that I've missed, and as usual it is the kids who have taught me. Ask yourself- "What are my students capable of?" And if your answer has a limit in it, understand that YOU ARE WRONG. If there is one universal truth that my students have shown me, not just this week, but in 12 years of teaching, it is that the only limits on our students are those that WE believe exist. Trust them, respect them, give up a little control, and be ready for them to blow your mind.
One more thing, can I just say how thankful I am to this blog. People I trust kept telling me, "Blog to reflect, blog for yourself, don't blog so others will read, just write...you won't regret it." Amen brothers and sisters, amen! Someday I'm going to come back and reread this post...and smile.