We were on our last week of school. Tuesday was our last day of regular classes. Wednesday students watch the Upper School Performance (which was wonderful) and had two Humanities classes. We finished up our last essay which students presented as a speech. The 6th had a math class, but then, that’s it. Thursday was a half day and that was all about cleaning up, gathering up, signing year books, and saying good-bye. We also finished watching most of The Holy Grail, skipping Castle Anthrax.
The speech writing used the same pattern as any other expository writing. Brainstorming, outlining, writing, and for some of the faster students, a chance to revise. The main difference was that I wouldn’t help them.
One student was not about to be put off. She kept asking me to check her work. Now this is a student who was writing her 14th essay for me. I knew, really knew, that she didn’t really need my help. I had her previous 13 papers in her portfolio in the back room. Every time she asked for help I referred her to her Tools folder, or the rubric, or the book, or a classmate. Still, she kept asking questions that I knew she knew the answer to.
I finally stopped her and asked if she knew how hard it was for me not to help her? Everybody thinks that the teacher is there to guide and help students, but the teacher is also there to help students do it themselves. Once the how-to-do-it-ive-ness has been established, the teacher needs to step back and let the students do it. I think they had noticed by now, as it was the end of the year, that I am both nosy and bossy. I find it very, very difficult not to look over their shoulders and point out places where they could be doing it the way I would be doing it, even when there is no guarantee that their way isn’t better. It is why I make myself sit at my desk and often knit or write blog entries until one of them needs help.
The student looked at me and said, “So, you are kind of like training wheels?” Yes. I am the human equivalent of training wheels. My job is to make myself superfluous. Then I asked her if she ever considered that the training wheels might miss the bike.
There was a moment of reflective silence in the room.