When Semantics Matter: Standing Behind Your Students
This afternoon I was hosting a PD session with a few colleagues and one made a comment that has me thinking. The session topic was something like “making projects rigorous” and my colleague, John, made a comment along the lines of needing to “hold students’ hands while they work on inquiry projects.” Instantly I was alerted.
After the session I shared with John a need to restrain myself from interrupting him. Rather than hand holding, I like the image of standing behind the students, recalling a popular exercise in trust-building where one person falls backwards and another catches them. I believe this to be our role as teachers in the 21st century. Knowledge is so abundant is becoming near worthless. There is no need for educators to ‘teach’ knowledge. We must teach students how to acquire information and use it meaningfully, while providing a safe environment for them to explore.
In this case, I believe semantics are worth correcting since the terms have strong cultural connotations. In my experience, handholding and spoon-feeding refer to situations where students are provided so much information and explanation that the critical thinking is taken away from them. What we should be doing, I believe, is teaching the students how to ask questions, acquire information, critique it on their own, and use that information in meaningful ways.
Stand behind your students to guide and support them throughout their explorations.