Letting Go … Again!

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!



6 thoughts on “Letting Go … Again!

  1. As educators, it is our job to let our students be as independent as possible and to provide them support with the skills that they are either missing or have not developed yet. Their learning isn’t nor should it be about pleasing a teacher. Ultimately if we want to support lifelong learners we need to give them the opportunity to do just that. This does mean letting go in places where the teacher really doesn’t need to hold all of the control. It’s about giving students the opportunity to take risks, make mistakes, and try again. Children have so much they can teach adults but so many miss that because they are too busy controlling their learning. It is a balance of course, but hopefully, one that puts the learner’s needs first.

    • Thanks for the comment, Karen! As I published this post, I thought a lot about some of our conversations in the past. Even as I found myself giving students more “control over their learning” in other areas, I still found myself trying to do so much for the child when it came to day-to-day routines. I wonder if I was concerned that I was asking too much of a Kindergarten student. My teaching partner has helped me see just how independent ALL children can be, and that nobody wants to be micromanaged … including a child. Letting go in some of these other areas (from cubby maintenance to milk routines) has made things a lot easier. I know that class size is often an area of debate when it comes to Kindergarten, and considering our small physical space, I can see why lower numbers are beneficial. When we “let go” though, many problems do start to go away, and the classroom environment is so much calmer. Students are supporting each other … we’re not just the ones supporting them. I love that!


  2. I think one of the other things that happens when we allow students to take on many of these classroom responsibilities is that it helps to build the sense of community. One of our frames for the Kindergarten program is Belonging and Well-being. When students, even as young as kindergarten students, help straighten the boots, get the milk and straws, organize the book exchange then they are an active part of the classroom community. If I as the teacher am the one doing everything, it sometimes leads to the sense that this is MY classroom and they are guests who will be visiting from September to June and then moving on.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Lisa! What a fantastic connection. I totally agree. These skills definitely help with developing this sense of community, and this helps make students want to come to school and happy to be there. Regardless of the grade, I’d argue that this community atmosphere is so important. I’m just happy that this community piece is an important part of our new program document.


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