I wrote this post in 2013. I could have written it yesterday. Sometimes I feel like change is so slow, that it is painful. And yet, even though I know I need to relinquish control, have I really done that…YET? Sometimes I think it is a lot easier to theorize about change than to follow through with it. You?
I read this post on Inquire Within a couple of weeks ago and it has been sitting with me ever since. Such good ideas in it! Please go and read it.
The post talks about all the ‘c’ words that are often used to describe education and learning in the 21st Century:
The author, Bo Adams goes on to suggest that all of these very important C words could all be ‘ruled’ by one BIG C:
“Control in the sense of ownership, investment and engagement, degree of agency and autonomy. Control to exercise choice. Control to pursue curiosity.”
And here is where I am really won over:
…in the giving of control, I believe we provide student learners with more opportunities to practice the skills organically and authentically than if we assign them work organized into the seven “Cs.” Through the autonomy of control – motivated by the control of choice – we naturally invest ourselves in those seven “Cs.” When we feel in control, we learn to take control, and we develop our capacities to maintain good control.
This is brilliant – and at the same time, can be really hard for adults to do.
We are in the middle of our PYP Exhibition and it is all about the kids being in control of their own learning. There are guidelines and supports in the form of checklists, workshops, and mentors, but ultimately, the kids are in control. And that can be hard for teachers and parents to deal with but so worth it for everyone if we can learn to back off a little and trust in the process, trust in the child, and be mindful of where they are at and how we can best support their learning.
Giving control of learning to the child doesn’t mean sitting in the corner with your feet up and letting them flounder. It means becoming an observer, a guide, a road map of sorts – ready to be referenced. It means being attuned to what is going on in your classroom and being prepared to ask for clarification from the children in your class. It means posing the right questions, sharing the right provocations, providing the appropriate amount of time for them to work their magic.
It also means modeling the characteristics we expect in our children:
- We have to take risks even (or especially!) when we don’t know what the outcome will be.
- We have to believe in our mission and vision and make sure we are not just talking the talk.
- We have to be a beacon of change if we are expecting our kids to do school differently.
- And we have to be prepared to let go of control ourselves, so that our kids can see what that looks like.
What kind of educator are you?
One that thrives on being in control or one that is prepared to let go, even in the face of possible failure?
One of the people I look to in terms of someone who reimagines education is Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy. In his book, The One World Schoolhouse, he says the following:
To me, this is what CONTROL is all about. Creating a nurturing and supportive classroom environment in which children are actively engaged in their own learning.
A note on student agency…
Recently, a new blog “Educator Voices” has started. A blog designed as “a place to share and celebrate how we are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo.” It is a blog focused on making school different and there is a lot to say about student agency. I encourage you to check it out and engage in the comments on blog posts. This is a tipping point in education and in “school” as we know it. None of us have all the answers but if we keep sharing our ideas and championing each other, we are likely going to get closer to serving our kids in the best ways possible.