Friday, July 18, 2014

Swimming Lessons

My son, Lucas, has taught me a lot since he made me a parent two and a half years ago.  I've learned how to function with less sleep, not to sweat the small stuff, to let go of my freakish need for control (a little, at least), and how to be a better teacher.  This most recent lesson in how best to teach has unfolded this summer, in the pool.  

You see, my son is somewhat fearless when it comes to exploring what he can do independently.  My husband, Jeff, and I have always encouraged and celebrated this independence from a young age, and Lucas continues to strut his independence daily.  It's not uncommon to hear him repeatedly say, "No, me!" when he wants to do something on his own, even though our assistance is required.

This fearlessness, and independence carried Lucas right into the pool.  He doesn't hesitate to stick his face in the water, blow bubbles, open his eyes under water, jump in, jump off the diving board, or kick and swim wherever he wants to go.  Of course, my husband or I are always there in the pool to help when needed, and we continue to encourage him to swim further, and offer opportunities to swim without his 'swimmies.'  

Jeff and I have done little in the way of instructing Lucas in how to swim.  We provided the opportunities, example, support, and the space to be successful. Lucas is a visual learner, and has learned and mastered a great deal by observing others.  For this very reason, I would not take the time to teach Lucas how to jump off the diving board because he's already mastered that.  I won't teach him how to open his eyes underwater, or the importance of holding his breath, or closing his mouth while he's swimming, as he's shown numerous times that he's got all of that under control.  The occasional reminder may be necessary, but that's about it, and he's thrived!! We've done little direct instruction, and he's learning, while we're on the sidelines, watching.

This is exactly what our students need!  We need to provide opportunities, support, resources, and the space to be successful in our classrooms.  We need to know what each of our students can do, and let them grow from where they are.  We should allow our students to be successful in what they have mastered, and encourage that enjoyment and confidence, as it carries over to new more difficult tasks.  Let's meet them where they are, and challenge them to be better.  If our students are already swimming, they don't need to learn how to jump in.  

This year our school system will be working to provide professional development in the area of differentiation.  Differentiation, while difficult, is not impossible, and is extremely beneficial for each and every student.  Even more difficult, could be the practice of facilitating your students rather than instructing.  Learning will happen, the students will be more invested, and they will surprise you.

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