Support and Stand By

Katy BurkeUncategorized

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In a previous post, Rethinking the Gaps, I argued that in trying to close the skill gaps that we fear children hold, we actually juxtapose pressuring kids and overprotecting them. We simultaneously push kids to check all the customary boxes while denying them the natural experiences of taking risk. Though we do it for good, this results in feelings of inadequacy, fear, and lack of self-trust.

But what can we do in place of pressuring and overprotecting? We can support and stand by. We can support and encourage genuine enthusiastic learning—even when it’s silly or “meaningless”, erratic or directionless. Essentially, we must open our minds to what qualifies as learning. Self-directed learning allows the learner to decide what is meaningful learning. Secondly, we can stand by and watch, actively watch. We can be truly attentive to our kids and ready to be responsive when they look to us for guidance or help. Then we stand back again, watch again, wait again, respond again, then step back. It’s not easy or comfortable. I personally have a difficult time doing this with my own children and in the classroom, but I realize that if I’m always taking the reins from them, I am simply easing my discomfort at the expense of their comfort with themselves. I often find myself filling in the blanks, answering my own questions, taking the initiative or organizing theirs. But as hard as it may be, I’m trying not to do those things because I believe we must allow kids to jump on their own, flounder and fail on their own, stumble their way through on their own. And we must have the courage to stand by, to be truly present without taking control. Ultimately, we want kids to trust us and trust themselves, and both begin with us trusting them.

(photo credit: anais samuri,