Letting Go of Control

This post was originally posted on December 5, 2012.

After spending a few days at the VSTE conference, my head still feels like it’s going to explode from all the information that’s now in there. Scratch that. It’s not the information I learned, it’s all the questions racing through my head that are giving me the most delightful headaches ever. As Jennifer Orr, an incredible colleague, friend and mentor pointed out, the most learning happened outside of the official sessions, during quiet (and loud) conversations. Just teachers talking to teachers. Making sense of life and learning. The way it should be. I have a lot more to process about VSTE later…

However, there is a throbbing pain that isn’t coming from the joys of creative strategies, deep questions or even a cool new trick. No. Unfortunately, this pain is a result of the number of times I heard references to “controlling” our students. Now this might sound a bit sadistic and I think this crowd was a bit too sophisticated to actually say “controlling” our students. But the need to dominate kids came out through other questions and comments:

I have a great new way to lock this app so kids can’t get to the other apps on the iPad.
How do I make sure the kids do exactly what I (my emphasis) want them to do?
This way, the students won’t try to do something else and will follow directions.
If you use this outline strategy, there is no way that a student can make a mistake or go off topic.
No, the students don’t make up their own questions, I make up all the questions and they just answer them.

How are we using this type of language in our day and age? Why do we still feel the need to dictate to our students what to do? What are we afraid of them doing? We may say that we’re afraid they are going to waste time, to go on the “wrong app” (because as adults, we would never ever get distracted now, would we?), or fall behind. But I think at the end of the day, we are just scared that they will ask us questions that we can’t answer. We are afraid of not knowing.

Assuming this theory is true, WHAT THE HECK ARE WE AFRAID OF? Don’t we want our students to be smarter than us? Don’t we want them to inspire us and lead us into the future? Don’t we want them to figure out the shortcuts and most efficient ways, the new tricks and strategies, the more abstract ways of thinking that we hadn’t even pondered yet?

Is it scary for them to lead us into a new line of thinking? Is it scary when they surprise us with all their background knowledge? Is it scary when they troubleshoot our devices without us even realizing there was something wrong? In my humble opinion, the answer is NO! It’s amazing and it’s exactly the direction in which we should be nurturing them towards.

We need to remember to let go of control. Let our students create. Let them think. Let them make good choices. Let them make bad choices. Just let them be.

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