Friday, October 14, 2016
Why giving support does not mean lowering standards
Twice today I was in conversations about providing supports for students. I can’t say I was the perfect teacher and I’m sure I made (and still make) my share of mistakes, but I can honestly say that providing support for students came naturally for me. I’ve learned in my years as an administrator and being exposed to many different situations with teachers and students that it doesn't come as naturally to some teachers.
Here’s how I’ve seen some teachers try to disguise their lack of willingness to provide support or their lack of knowledge on how to do it... They say things like, “I have very high standards for my students,” or “As a _____ (9th grader, 10th grader, etc.), they should be able to do that by themselves. I should not have to help them.”
I have the firm belief that we can still have high standards for students and provide support at the same time. I also have the firm belief that not everyone learns and progresses at the same rate.
Perhaps it was my years spent as a coach where I learned to give support and still expect a lot from my players. Maybe it's because I've been on the receiving end as a player. I had coaches who demanded a lot from me, and they nudged, pulled, pushed, motivated, helped, and more, until I achieved what it was I needed to achieve. When I was in the classroom, I took the same philosophy I had as a coach to my science students. They were going to achieve, and I was going to provide what they needed to get there.
I use this same philosophy now as I work with teachers on instructional practices, classroom management, technology, etc. For example, when I'm teaching someone how to use twitter to tell their own story, I make sure they have what they need. No judgment. No questions about why they aren't further along at this point in their life/career.
When we teach someone to ride a bike, the standard is that they will ride the bike themselves, without support. But we don’t take them to the road/path and send them on their way with a big wave. We put our hands on the bike, run beside them, and support them on the bike. Sometimes we take our hands away just to put them back quickly. As the new bike rider gets more experience and more confident, we gradually spend less time holding the bike. Then the moment arrives where we let them ride without our help while we hope that they don’t fall down.
When we think about providing support in the analogy above, there’s one important requirement: it's best to give them only what they need, but it's better to give them a little too much and not enough. Any less and they will never get “to the standard.” Any more and they won’t get it on their own.
And no two riders are the same. They all require their own amount of support.