It is this way with many things in life. This is that equal and opposite reaction. One of the paired extremes we see in classrooms is the sense of student independence and teacher control. It's important to reflect on the balancing act between these two powerful forces in our classroom, so that we can make the right choices in our own classrooms, so that kids' view of school and learning can remain positive through their whole lives.
If we think about the earlier post on this site about choice and voice in teaching and learning, choice is critical for kids to feel the continued sense of exploration in their education...leading to a lifelong excitement and enthusiasm for new learning in their lives.
In order to look at where we stand on in this balancing act, there are some areas that we can reflect on in our classrooms to decide what we can do to keep ourselves giving ample levels of independence for our kids.
It's important for teachers to engage in something called value-added discourse. This means that the speaking we do should be something a teacher is needed for. The more percentage of the time we speak that is devoted to something instructional, the more effective we are.
If we can relinquish some of the control over classroom management onto our students, it leaves more of a percentage of our talk to value-added discourse. It trains our students to really listen in when the teacher is saying something, because it must be important. This is every teacher's decision and there are extenuating circumstances, but as a rule of thumb, the more power we give students over their own movement, the more power we have as instructors.
This idea of instructional choice also means that we have to ensure that Tuesday's minilesson isn't Tuesday's assignment. We can actually hold students to a much higher level of accountability if we teach them to decide when to use new strategies. Also, if Tuesday's minilesson is Tuesday's assignment, but a student really needs to use Monday's strategy, because it fits better with where she is in her writing that day, then Tuesday's assignment is really in the way! The opposite is sometimes true, too. Tuesday's minilesson may not fit Tuesday's work in an independent book or piece of writing. Why make a child do something that just doesn't make sense? Independence in instructional choice is key here!
For example, having students write long about a prediction might not make sense for a student who has already predicted, or is near the end of a book. Assigning a Venn Diagram needs the context of comparison and contrasting, but if a student is in the midst of theory development or tracking change across time, this context isn't really there, and the assignment can actually get the student off track!
If we insist upon this type of assignment, it can give the wrong message...one that says the writing is done for the teacher, not for the student and the reading and the thinking. It's another thing that makes reading into an artificial experience that students won't want to replicate on their own in life. It will also give students the message that they need the teacher to make decisions in their reading for them, enabling them to be dependent on the teacher. Shouldn't good teaching do just the opposite? Shouldn't it enable students to be independent so that they can always read, even when the shots aren't being called by the teacher?
Independence should always be a goal for our students. If you're not fostering independence, you might actually be masking a need to control too much of what your students are doing, which actually will hold them back in the long run!