Be the change, being a teacher, being me, student choice, student voice

My Students Don’t Want to Make All the Time And I Am Okay With That

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.

9 thoughts on “My Students Don’t Want to Make All the Time And I Am Okay With That”

  1. And they need inspiration. That’s where new ideas come from being creative. They need us to introduce them to material that inspires and sets them afire.

  2. I think this is so true. We cannot simply “get out of the way” all the time. There are times when we need to take a few minutes to explain something or have a whole class discussion. I think we should be extremely careful that we keep this time to a minimum, but some children do need this at times.

  3. Once again Pernille, the content of your posts makes me feel the need to respond asap! Yes, think we all agree that finding a balance in our teaching and giving our kids choices is very important. Agree that whole class, explicit teaching time has a significant place. Think the key to making whole class teaching iinteresting and engaging depends on how the teacher teaches! A sizzling topic might fizzle out or a not so sizzling topic might end up sizzling!
    Some kids need more direction and individual or small group guidance, and it is those students we need to ‘teach for a longer period. My students tell me when they are ready to move on independently. Even then of course we continue to mentor and guide according to their individual or group needs. I watched a video of myself teaching. Observed that I explain and re- explain. Noticed how some kids got it and were itching to get going, while others still needed and wanted more ‘ teaching time.’
    This is where the lesson that started with a sizzle, slowly started to fizzle.
    I have shared this video with my kids.
    They agree! They now have a sign to show me when they get it. I nod and they move on to do it! This is working for all of us! Guess it’s called differentiated education, but where the students are choosing to differentiate themselves!

  4. Thank you for articulating this very sensible view! I so agree with you! It’s those students I must be thinking about when I proceed with caution into the maker movement instead of jumping full in. And because that is the kind of learner I am, even as an adult. We will always go too fast for some, too slow for others. I like how Dfinesto put it…kids are differentiating for themselves. And isn’t that what we want them to do? Grow to know themselves as learners?

  5. I wonder as teacher we think we need to jump on the latest fade. The fade is not always best practice for all students. Computers are great and so is coding but it is not great for all kids. They need exposure but overkill is too much. Maker spaces are great for some but not all. Reading a book appropriate for a student’s level is great but not for all kids. We need to tailor our instruction for our students and this is a challenging. Teacher is not an easy job. We need to remind ourselves and others of this all the time.

  6. I love that you never stop learning Pernille. That you see our profession as one that is constantly changing and that you change with it, grow, and learn. Thanks for helping me do it too.

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