The Things We Steal From Children

25 08 2009

Dr John Edwards

One evening, on returning from lecturing to my students, my wife asked me: “And what did you steal from your students today?” The question rocked me, and as I examined my practice under her skilful questioning, I realized how much of the processes I kept for myself.

So we sat down and together we wrote the following:

If I am always the one to think of where to go next
If where we go is always the decision of the curriculum or my curiosity and not theirs.
If motivation is mine.
If I always decide on the topic to be studied, the title of the story, the problem to be worked on
If I am always the one who has reviewed their work and decided what they need.
How will they ever know how to begin?

If I am the one who is always monitoring progress.
If I set the pace of all working discussions.
If I always look ahead, foresee problems and endeavor to eliminate them.
If I swoop in and save them from cognitive conflict.

If I never allow them to feel and use the energy from confusion and frustration.

If things are always broken into short working periods.
If myself and others are allowed to break into their concentration.
If bells and I are always in control of the pace and flow of work
How will they learn to continue their own work?

If all the marking and editing is done by me.
If the selection of which work is to be published or evaluated is made by me.
If what is valued and valuable is always decided by external sources or by me.
If there is no forum to discuss what delights them in their task, what is working, what is  not working, what they plan to do about it.
If they have not learned a language to discuss their work in ways that are intrinsically  growth enhancing.
If they do not have a language of self-assessment.
If ways of communicating their work are always controlled by me.
If our assessments are mainly summative rather than formative.
If they do not plan their way forward to further action.

How will they find ownership, direction and delight in what they do?

If I speak of individuals but present learning as if they are all the same.
If I am never seen to reflect and reflection time is never provided.
If we never speak together about reflection and thinking and never develop a vocabulary  for such discussion.
If we do not take opportunities to think about our thinking.
If I constantly give them exercises that do not intellectually challenge them.
If I set up learning environments that interfere with them learning from their own  actions.
If I give them recipes to follow.
If I only expect the one right conclusion.
If I signify that there are always right and wrong answers.
If I never openly respect their thoughts.
If I never let them persevere with something really difficult which they cannot master.
If I make all work serious work and discourage playfulness.
If there is no time to explore.
If I lock them into adult time constraints too early.
How will they get to know themselves as a thinker?

If they never get to help anyone else.
If we force them to always work and play with children of the same age.
If I do not teach them the skills of working co-operatively.
If collaboration can be seen as cheating.
If all classroom activities are based in competitiveness.
If everything is seen to be for grades.
How will they learn to work with others?

For if they have never experienced being challenged in a safe environment.
-have had all of their creative thoughts explained away.
-are unaware what catches their interest and how then to have confidence in that  interest.
-have never followed something they are passionate about to a satisfying conclusion.
-have not clarified the way they sabotage their own learning.
-are afraid to seek help and do not know who or how to ask.
-have not experienced overcoming their own inertia.

-are paralyzed by the need to know everything before writing or acting.

-have never got bogged down.

-have never failed.

-have always played it safe.

How will they ever know who they are?



4 responses

31 05 2011
Alan McClure

If I assume that they will know
what they need to know
but never provide the basic information, facts or skills
with which they can decide what it is they need to know…

If I give the impression
that life is never difficult, challenging or annoying
and that they will always have control over their own decisions…

If I kid myself into assuming
that because the most eloquent student
has chosen a topic,
all the children feel as if they have a voice…

If I willingly bow to pedagogic fashion
regardless of who I’m teaching,
subsuming my own knowledge of my pupils
to the greater wisdom
of people who no longer teach
but spend their time in commitees
trying to figure out where it all went wrong…

9 01 2013
Tim Perkins

Loosen up Alan. Let go of the reigns and your own prejudices and put the kids in the driving seat. It will free up time for you to make more positive, constructive and informed comments.
All the best.

7 10 2012
8 03 2014

Wow………….this has really opened my eyes..awesome motivation!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: