It is in my nature to need to be in control, as I am pretty sure it is for a lot of teachers.  Let’s face it – our job largely depends on it. We make sure our students cover the material they need to in order to complete the course.  We know the curriculum, we know what they need to do, so we make the decisions about what projects are done, when they should be done, and what students should learn from them.  We also need to control our classrooms – who needs to be in there, who should sit where, what materials are available.

We plan and we organize, and we want it all to be perfect and orderly.  It is part of being teachers. It is in our nature.  It is time for that to change!

Letting go of some of that control is hard, but it is exactly what we need to do.

I started my teaching career in the same school I’m teaching in now.  I went from the very formalized structure of a teacher-training program, where planning was a way of life and you didn’t dare to miss a day’s objectives, to an environment where student choice was at the forefront of everything done in the day, and, I admit, it was scary!  I am a very organized person – my back-up plans have back-up plans – so the thought of students making critical decisions, and possibly not succeeding, scared me. I felt that if my students didn’t “succeed” according to how I had been trained they should, that I would be a failure as a teacher.

But, I embraced the chaos, and, you know what? I am a better teacher for it!

The thing is, students have some pretty great ideas to offer. If you think about it, by the time they get to high school, students have a decade of experience behind them in terms of understanding their learning. They know what they like and don’t like, and they know where they were successful and where they came up short. Beyond that, students know what they are interested in – what will actually inspire them and engage them in learning. Why on Earth would we not take advantage of a resource like that?

I still know the curriculum, what my students need to cover and what skills they need to learn. That part of teaching is never going to change. But now it’s not me calling all of the shots. I guide, I advise, I direct, but I take my cues from my students.

Coming Soon: Let Go and Let the Kids Part 2: Negotiation and Inspiration