One of the biggest mistakes teachers make is that they get too involved in student work.
They pull up a chair and join in discussions.
They lean down and offer unsolicited suggestions.
They interrupt, remind, encourage, guide, and hint.
And although there are times when you may need to get involved to some degree, and with some students, they should be few and far between.
In fact, once your students become absorbed in independent or group work, once they’re doing as you ask, it’s best to observe from a distance.
It’s best to fade into the background.
It’s best to leave your students alone.
It’s evidence of deep learning.
When your students are on task and engaged in the work you’ve given them, it’s a sign that deep learning is taking place.
It’s a sign that your lesson was effective, that you’ve done your job, and now it’s time for them to do theirs.
No matter how helpful you think you’re being, any interference or disruption will pull them out of this desirable state—in which they lose track of time and get lost in their work.
It builds perseverance muscles.
One of the goals of effective teaching is to continually extend the amount of time your students work independently and without your input.
Not only does this dramatically improve learning, but it builds grit and determination. It builds concentration, perseverance, and academic toughness.
These traits are severely lacking in many of our students, but are the number one key to their success.
It will happen again and again.
The more you’re able to leave your students alone and allow them to take pleasure in focused learning, the more often it will happen.
After all, it’s a calming and rewarding place to be. It revs their intrinsic motivational engines and creates in them a desire to pursue knowledge for its own sake.
Solving problems, overcoming obstacles, and sticking it out through tough projects, then, becomes a success habit they can’t get enough of.
Let It Pour
Allowing students to work without interruptions doesn’t mean that you’ll sit at your desk and tap your fingers.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll prep and plan or check your iPhone.
It means that you’ll observe your students intently. It means that you’ll scrutinize their behavior and progress.
It means that you’ll take note of their strengths, weaknesses, and struggles in order to inform future instruction.
Your job is to teach great lessons. Give detailed examples. Model, playact, emote, story-tell, and inspire your heart out.
Set your students up for success, then step off the stage.
Recede into the shadows.
And let them get drenched in learning. Let it drip from their nose and fingertips. Let it become a downpour they look forward to dancing in again and again.
PS – If you’re a principal and would like to improve recess behavior, click here.
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