Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

July 5, 2012

Fireworks and Celebrating Independence – Educators’ Great Moments

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:45 am
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For many educators, the fourth of July, with its parades, picnics and of course, fireworks, signals a much deserved break from the challenging work of teaching.  As I sit in a beach chair, waiting for dark and for the spectacle to begin, I am reminiscing about the joy of independence . . . not freedom from school or work, but the freedom that comes from being able to complete a task on one’s own.

For some students, independence comes naturally and easily.  They quickly master 2 + 2, with little prompting tie their own shoes, and readily apply lessons learned to new problems.  There are significant numbers of students, however, that can become independent learners, but only with considerable help, scaffolding, and patience on the part of parents and teachers.  Some would consider the teaching of such special needs or struggling students a chore, an assignment to be avoided at all costs.  If you have ever been fortunate enough to work with a child as they move from assisted learner to independent do-er, you know it is as spectacular as the Macy’s fourth of July display.

In my graduate class on teaching diverse learners, as is usually the case, the question of intrinsic motivation came up within the first few classes. When you are struggling to learn something, when a task is particularly challenging and mastery seems absolutely impossible, extrinsic motivation can help buoy a sinking ego.  My favorite extrinsic motivators, as my colleague Rob March expounds, have no salt, no sugar, and cost no money.  Great teachers know that a smile, a thumbs up, a few minutes shooting hoops, all can serve to keep a student going.

As I wait for the fireworks, I’m remembering moments in teaching and learning that were nothing shor of brilliant.  I am also remembering the hard work of preparation, and all the duds – the shells that never take flight.  I wish all my teaching colleagues a relaxing, rejuvenating summer, so that they can ignite all the learners in their charge, and independence is celebrated, not just in July, but in classrooms all year long.


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