Things We Steal from our Students

12 02 2011

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?

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