Stephanie is a precocious two year old. She loves getting into everything she can. Mom certainly knows that when the house is quiet, something is going on. So when Mom comes in to help Stephanie get dressed in the morning, naturally Stephanie’s independent spirit takes over. “No, I do it,” Stephanie protests, yanking her shirt from Mom’s hand. She doesn’t want help. Stephanie is a big girl and can do it all by herself.
Some may praise the independence on Stephanie’s part. The child is learning to do things on her own and doesn’t want help from Mom. Others may see this as defiance that requires correction.
Finding the best balance of independence is vital for teachers in a student-centered classroom, and seeking help is a critical skill for young minds.
Studies have shown that asking for help may be related to family dynamics. Some families have taught their children that they shouldn’t inconvenience adults with so many questions; whereas, other families encourage their students to ask as much as they want. This has an influence in the classroom because teachers tend to focus on the students who ask questions versus the ones who don’t, causing the children who don’t ask for help to not receive needed support.
As administrators and teachers, the challenge is creating a classroom atmosphere that encourages student interaction and discovery. When the culture supports questions and answers, issues like pride and fear of failure begin to fade away. Students don’t want to look unintelligent in front of their friends, but if a controlled back and forth communication strategy is expertly created by the teacher, every student’s input will provide value to the class dynamic and learning environment.
When the paradigm shifts from collecting the dots to connecting the dots, the type and frequency of questions becomes transformative. Effective learning moves beyond the memorization of facts to gaining truth, meaning, and purpose. Asking great questions is a powerful skill for students, teachers, and coaches. When a student is prone to ask a large volume of questions, lead him/her to the answer by asking directed questions in return. This is known as counter-questions, and helps to build important critical thinking skills.
So, where do you draw the line between student independence and dependence on the teacher? The answer lies in the desired outcome--if you desire to help each child develop and build his/her gifts and talents, then seek to thoughtfully and passionately guide them into productive “independence.”