Thursday, October 25, 2018

To push or not to push. . . .

Teachers everywhere wrestle with the question "to push or not to push" as they teach. Now some may retort that the questions should be how to inspire more, how to educate where students are intrinsically motivated, or how to support each and every learner with a personal response? But when you are teaching large groups of students towards mastery with specific skills, sometimes the question arises, should I push that student forward or not?

Wrestling with that question often finds educators asking these questions:

  • Is the student capable of meeting this challenge?
  • Is the student's lack of trying holding him/her back?
  • Will hard work now result in a giant leap forward with regard to confidence and skill?
Today as I taught I wrestled with this question. One child appeared to guess rather than dig in and apply good strategy. I pushed a bit and she responded by digging in and doing a much better job. I pushed another child a bit, but found that he was very confused with the material. It was clear that he needed a different approach, and I redirected his effort. With each child I supported, I thought about this question as I looked over their work, answered their questions, and asked them to do more or different. As I questioned, in the back of my mind was the desire to help every child forward their learning, concept, and skill--I want them all to achieve in just right ways with good progress.

Parents wrestle with these same questions as they mentor, coach, and lead their children forward too. It's the dance that both parents and teachers play.

To learn well is not always easy, and sometimes it requires a bit of a push. To teach well is similar--we have to wrestle with the question of how far to push a child ahead and when to provide a different kind of support and coaching. Onward.