Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education - Fostering an Independent Spirit

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Education - Fostering an Independent Spirit

21, 2008 – 11:28 am by

Part two in the


As a teacher I have
found that finding the right balance of allowing students to learn on
their own and giving hints or outright help is a true art form. As a
parent it is even more difficult. I have a sense though that if there
is any sort of silver bullet in teaching it will include a mastery of
when to stoke the fires of imagination and when to stand back and
roast marshmellows.

The good news is the
more you teach your children to be independent the easier it becomes
for you, and his or her teacher, to know when to help and when to
watch. You’ll know you are doing a good job when your child refuses
to accept help because he or she wants to do something on her own.
The question is how do you teach independence?

One of the first
lessons we learn in classroom management is that unstructured time
leads to discipline problems. Outside of recess I wouldn’t expect
an entire classroom of children to be able to just play and not cause
any problems. It will cause a few problems at home too, but with
fewer children it can be easier to manage.

Lately there seems
to be a growing trend towards unstructured play, or free play. The
theory is that just playing forces children to use their imagination.
During free play children: make up games, they create rules, they
fight, they make up, they laugh, they play, and so much more. They
learn all those messy skills needed to deal with the world when
things don’t go exactly the way you would like. At the end of the
day children learn how to be more independent.

I think it should be
obvious that free play does not include hours sitting in front of a
TV or computer screen, but it doesn’t have to involve educational
toys or trips to the gym either. Often times the simplest toys, a
wooden spoon or an empty box are the best. An afternoon at the park
is always a great excuse to sail on a pirate ship. If there is no
park near by I’m sure your

has some playground equipment.

independence is more than letting your child develop an imagination,
it is about teaching him/her to be confident in their abilities. To
learn what they are capable of children have to attempt to do things
and, shudder, fail on occasion. Remember way back when your lovely
little munchkins were first learning how to get dressed, he might
have said, “no mommy I can put my shoes on by myself?” Ten
minutes later you pulled her shoes off the wrong feet and put them on
the correct feet. The concept doesn’t change as our children grow,
just the specific skills.

The real trick for
us as parents and teachers is to recognize when these learning
opportunities are happening and to let them happen. Of course leaving
everything to chance might not be the best idea. It is possible to
foster the occurrence of learning opportunities.

Next Monday
fostering learning opportunities.

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