I think we have 25 or so days left of school. I may be wrong, I haven’t been counting. I don’t like to count down, I want to savor every moment, embrace every opportunity, teach until the last minute. I owe it to the kids. Yet with the inevitable end of year in sight, I feel the urge to release my students. To maybe even push them away a little as they need to stand on their own. To let go a little more, to have them try the exploration by themselves first and not rely so much on me. Because in 25 days or so, I won’t be there anymore. I won’t be there when they write, or when they discuss, or when they book shop. I won’t be there to support, to help, to push. So they need to find their own way; after all, fostering independent learners is one of our major goals in education.
Yet it seems we have created a paradox. Within our own eagerness to be the best teacher we can be, to provide everything for every child, I think we forget to let students go a little as well. We create so many scaffolds in our classrooms in an effort to help students learn more and then forget to remove them, wondering why students come to next year’s teachers seemingly ill prepared to be independent. And I am not alone in these thoughts as I am reminded of Bob Probst speaking at NCTE about how we teach kids in early years that NF stands for “Not fake” and then never correct that notion. Or Donalyn Miller, who wrote an incredibly wonderful book about creating wild readers; readers that would read outside of our classrooms, after they left us. It seems in our passion for teaching, we may be creating kids who lose sight of what education really is about and instead rely on our systems to pass from class to class.
So right now, as we slip toward the end, I think of all the ways my students must be released. To make sure that they know that the signposts that we find because of Notice and Note are not the point of reading, but are meant to deepen their experience. That a MEL-Con paragraph is not the task at hand, but instead just a way to remember that if you present any evidence when you write, you must analyze and explain it. That they must look inward to discover who they are as a reader so that they can select books using their own methods that do not revolve around what the teacher book-talked. And the list goes on.
At the beginning of the year, we are so focused on the routines we must set up for our learning communities. On the expectations that we create along with the students. We start programs, curriculum, and set our journey up for the most success. It is therefore only right that toward the end we start to unravel the same routines, the procedures, the scaffolds, so that students can leave us better, bigger, and more independent. So the students can leave us and not look back when they go, knowing they are ready for the next challenge.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.