It was a conversation with my teaching partner, Paula, the other day that inspired this blog post.
Our discussion and some of the comments on this Instagram post made me think about the other ways that children demonstrate their independence in the classroom.
- It’s in the reminders that the milk hasn’t arrived, and then the collection of the chocolate and white milks that we need for our class.
- It’s in the children in the library figuring out how many students need straws for their milk, and then walking back to the classroom, collecting the right number of straws, and bringing them back to the library.
- It’s in the children accessing the milk list on their own to figure out who gets milk and what kind they get.
- It’s in the children helping to hand out pizza each week.
- It’s in the child using the list on my iPad to collect the students that are in the afternoon library group.
- It’s in children looking at the library books that Paula holds up each week, determining which one belongs to them, and joining the line to head to the library.
- It’s in the children lining up the wet boots so that they dry and others can find them easily on the way home.
- It’s in the children organizing the cubby room, so that all children can find their belongings at home time.
- It’s in the children switching and recording the home reading books when our parent volunteer is away.
- It’s in the children determining their own times to eat, and packing up their backpacks when they’re done. It’s in them knowing if they haven’t finished eating yet when Paula provides the final reminder that “it’s time to eat.” It’s in children listening to their bodies and being aware of what they need when they need it.
I can’t help but look back at this list and think about the number of times that I would have tried to do every job that’s listed here. I would have spent my lunch hour and prep time checking lists, collecting items, and organizing materials. At the time, I thought that I was doing what was best for kids. But now I wonder …
- Was I trusting them to make good decisions on their own?
- Was I allowing them to become independent?
This year has been a great reminder for me that when we believe in children and give them opportunities to be responsible, they consistently amaze us with what they can do. Yes, some children need more support than others, but they don’t always need our support. When students realize that we need them, they will also regularly help each other (and us) more.
We currently have 32 children in our class, and that is a lot of four- and five-year-olds. There are all kinds of reasons that smaller numbers would be beneficial, but one thing that bigger numbers taught me is that sometimes we need to let certain things go, and rely on our students in addition to them relying on us. For me, this was a lesson worth learning, and I thank my teaching partner for this important reframe. As our students continue to move up in the grades, I think that this independence will serve them well. Whether an educator, a parent, or both, how do you develop this independence in children? What value have you noticed in doing so? I would love to hear your stories!