Sometimes, we just have to give students a choice and then get out of the way…

A recent article in one of our state newspapers got me thinking about the role we as educators and parents play in our children’s lives. In this article (http://trib.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/teen-makes-nuclear-reactor-in-dad-s-shed/article_e9576aa3-9df4-550a-9778-29c4843104ed.html), a high school student built a nuclear reactor in his father’s garage and he’s not the only high school student around the world to do so. Daily, I watch a friend on Facebook who’s son has founded an organization (openworldcause.com) and the progress they are making to help schools in third world countries. It started with a choice the parent gave the student in regards to getting a new piece of technology. I see these amazing things that kids are able to do with little or no guidance from an adult or with an adult fully supportive and there to lend a helping hand. They both started by giving up a little control and giving the kids a choice.

I recently read an article from the Harvard Newsletter discussing Question Formulation Technique (Sept/Oct 2011-http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/507) wherein students come up with their own questions to explore a topic.  I loved this quote by one student: “One of the students observes: ‘When you ask the question, you feel like it’s your job to get the answer, and you want to figure it out.'”  

Sometimes as parents and as teachers, we want our students to succeed so much and to get the right score on the test that we have to spoon feed them, bribe them, coerce them, or do the work for them to make them get through school. I recently had a parent come into the ALC looking for a mystery book for her son’s English class assignment.  I didn’t have the books she was looking for because her son reads at a “lower level” and so wanted reading material appropriate for his level.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one who assisted her or I probably would have told her that if her son were allowed to choose his own book and find one of interest, he would probably read it and understand it. 

Our children/students need to be able to make choices, even if they are the wrong choices, to learn. The student in the article above, my friend’s son, and so many other kids can be motivated to do tremendous thing given some say or a choice in what they are doing.

 

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