Guiding from the Side

This post is contributed by Linda Rodriguez.

I grew up in the age of sages.  Teachers who knew and imparted vast amounts of factual wisdom – so much that my hand would ache trying to copy even just the gist of what they said.  Classrooms were quiet places of rarified knowledge with teacher-wizards who pulled back the curtain and gave us a glimpse into the holy font of their incredible knowledge.

Fast forward about 30 years.  Today, students can access more information than any educator can possibly know on their diminutive handheld computer/communication devices.  But rather than lament the seeming loss of purpose in the teaching profession, I would argue that today’s students are searching for adults who can help them make sense of all the information at their fingertips.

The 21st century teacher must become a Guide on the Side, showing students how to ask the right questions, search the right keywords, synthesize information to find new ways of interpreting data.  We are also duty bound to help our students become independent learners.  I think we all have found that students are requiring more hand-holding post COVID than they ever needed before.  It is our responsibility to take off the training wheels, let go of the seat, step back and let them navigate on their own.

Will they all ride like the wind, taking control of their academic journey?  Unlikely.  However, just like we do with our own children, we can help them up when they fall and give them another go.  Planning lessons that include multiple perspectives, primary source materials, cross disciplinary resources, and out of the box thinking tasks is vital for encouraging the independent higher order processing that our students so desperately need as they navigate today’s info rich world.

Edutopia has a great article with useful tips and links on how to help students transition from dependent to independent learners.  For me, I’m glad to be the guide to my students’ adventure, for it’s a thrilling class when we’re all learning together.

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