We seem to think that all students want to just be left alone to make and create. That if given the choice, the students would love school so much more if we just provided them with big picture goals and then let them meander along their own path to get there. That they need time to just think and do, without too much interference from the teacher. That if we give them enough tools and enough freedom then their inner passion will be awakened and they will discover their destiny. That school is breaking the creative spirit of all children by not providing freedom and that we must get back to making all of the time. Yet is this true? Is this really what all children need?
I bring this up because it seems that in our voyage to overhaul school we seem to be going to a new extreme; one that assumes that all students want to make. That all students are passionate artists held back by the confinement of school. I am not sure this is true though, at least it isn’t, according to my students.
My students are telling me that they want choice all the time, but that one of the choices should always be to follow a path set forth by the teacher.
My students are telling me that they would like to create sometimes but that other times they need ideas for what they can create.
My students are asking to not be left alone at all times. That they need guidance and vision, that they need help, because they don’t know always know where they are going or what they are trying to do. Sometimes they don’t need me right there, but sometimes they do.
My students are telling me that for most of them it is not enough to just know where they need to end, but they need to know how to get there as well. And that is my job, their job, and why we are in a classroom.
My students are telling me that a teacher’s job is to teach and that they would like to to learn and sometimes that means sitting and listening, not doing, not inventing, not creating. That constantly making is exhausting, and not in a great way. That there must be balance in all of our classrooms.
That doesn’t mean that they are broken. That doesn’t mean they will not be successful adults. That does not mean that school somehow has robbed them of their creativity or of their voice. It doesn’t mean that we have successfully indoctrinated all students to believe they are un-creative, it simply means that they are kids learning. That they are kids who want to experiment but not be on their own. That we need to ask our students and then listen to what they all say and then cater our teaching to reach all of them. Not assume they don’t need us anymore. Not assume that school will only be a place that holds them back unless we remove all constraints.
Once again, we must make school about the kids we teach not the kids we think we teach. Those kids need us, all of us, all of the time. And they may need us in ways we don’t realize, our job is to figure it out and then stop assuming they don’t mean what they say. When they say they want a teacher to teach them that is not inherently bad, it just means they are not quite ready, and that is perfectly ok.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.