Letting go in the classroom

Letting go in the classroom; what does that mean to me? During the last few months, I have seen many intelligent educators post on the topic of  “letting go” or “relinquishing some control” in the classroom. The idea being that if we shift the balance of power towards our students, it will provide a better environment for authentic teaching and learning. Ideally, students should have as much power as the teacher in the classroom. Don’t sweat the small stuff; if a student speaks out of turn but is on topic, do not shut down, but encourage him/her. No student should fear the teacher, but hopefully, all students will respect the teacher. You get the idea.

This is something that has always been part of my teaching philosophy; yet, I am fighting a constant battle with myself on how to implement this. Where does one draw the line? When is it ok for my classroom to be a bit unruly, and when is it not? I sometimes find myself thinking that if another teacher walked into my classroom at this or that moment, they might be aghast at what might appear as mild chaos to them.

But, I keep coming back to the idea that if we allow students to have a voice in the classroom, we set the stage for successful learning. If students feel as if they are treated as equals and that their opinions are valued, the vast, vast majority of students will not misbehave. Instead, they will participate in discussions with gusto and courage, and we get an exchange of ideas and opinions that might otherwise be difficult to achieve. I always strive to make students feel as if this is “their” and not “my” classroom. Sometimes I succeed, and other times I fail, but I think that it is a goal worth pursuing.

I have had some of my best classroom discussions when it is clear to me that students feel empowered and that they have ownership of their learning. As much as possible, I try to be the facilitator of learning, rather than the delivery man. Again, this is sometimes a difficult balance to strike. I certainly do not have all the answers, and as this post makes clear, I am still struggling with how much power to allow students. Still, I think that I succeed more often than I fail, which tells me that there must be something to this idea. If we allow our students time and space to shine, more often than not, they will.

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