I will be out of the classroom for the month of April (a medical procedure that really can't wait). Spring break will take up one of the weeks, but it still equates to me being out of the classroom for three weeks. As we draw closer to April, the feeling of anxiety is building. I have done my best to set my students, my teammates and the teacher who will be in for me, up for success. Long range plans are ready, materials are gathered, a newsletter informing families went home Friday, and I've spoken with my students. My teammates and administrators couldn't be more supportive, and yet I'm still filled with a great deal of angst, and guilt. Have I done enough to prepare for the transition? Will the transition be a smooth one?
If we have done our jobs right, our students should continue to learn and to flourish as much in our absence, as in our presence. If we have given them the tools to help them ask the right questions, if we have given them the opportunity to lead their learning, if we have taken the time to establish the norms of collaboration in a learning community and encouraged students to share expertise and learn from one another, we should feel confident that our students can perform as well in our absence as they would in our presence. As educators we must cultivate independent learners. Too often classrooms are teacher centered, and we end up creating dependent learners. Dependent learners, that when the teacher is busy or removed from the activity, become anxious, intimidated, distracted or easily deterred when tasks appear complex or require a novel approach. What we must insure that we do is foster independent learners; learners that are curious, confident, willing to take risks and flexible in their thinking.
Until right now, I'm not sure I reflected enough on how well I have prepared my students to truly lead their own learning. I value persistence, and perseverance in problem solving certainly; but how often have I jumped in too soon? Did I let them struggle, yes struggle, and wrestle with a problem before jumping in? How often have I encouraged them to tap into the expertise of their peers? Have I encouraged students to reflect on how they know what they know? I adore the curiosity of this group of third graders, but have I given them ample opportunity to indulge their curiosity, and see where it leads? Have I included self-reflection and self-assessment enough for them to be acutely aware of their strengths and their weaknesses?
It will be difficult to be out of the classroom, but having this happen has provided me an opportunity for some meaningful reflection, and the chance to perhaps tweak some things when I return. Fostering independent learners is important, particularly if we are looking to promote life-long learning. Students should continue to learn and to flourish as much in our absence, as in our presence.