Note: This is the eighth and final post in a series based on the book Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn Jackson.

"We say that we want students to take more responsibility for their own learning, yet we continue to control every aspect of their learning...How will students learn to take more responsibility unless we first relinquish some of the control?" (p. 156).

Of the seven principles of master teachers Jackson suggests in her book, I scored the lowest on this one. She goes on several pages later to describe one of my biggest downfalls as an educator.
"...intervening too soon is one of the most common ways we prevent students from doing their own work..." (p. 176)
When a student raises his or her hand to ask a question during individual or collaborative work time, I have always felt like I need to provide supports that directly help the student understand the concept. Immediately. Rarely do I answer a question with another question. Rarely have I asked a student, "Where might you find the answer to that question?" The math teacher I learned the most from in high school as well as the math professor I learned the most from in college both followed up questions with additional questions. They knew how to ask leading questions to help me and other students think through our misconceptions. This strategy not only takes patience, but it also a solid understanding of the content area.

I admit it. For the past five years as a high school math teacher, I have probably been working harder than my students. When the 3:15pm bell rings, they're energized and I'm exhausted. On average, I probably do much more thinking during the class period then they do. Jackson suggest a conceptual change to my admittedly flawed past practice...
"Helping students means providing them with the minimum amount of assistance they need to learn to do something on their own. Enabling students means doing it for them." (p. 173)
As fellow edublogger Dan Meyer often says, I need to "be less helpful." What does that look like for me?
  • Requiring students to check their own homework answers each and every day.
  • Using collateral and "rent" strategies when students come to class unprepared.
  • Keeping more students after school to finish and get help with their work rather than allowing them to get off the hook with a below-average grade.
  • Following up more student-generated questions with questions of my own, as suggested above. Scaffold!
  • Continuing to emphasize routines and procedures to help "facilitate" rather than "teach" students.
  • ...and probably much, much more!
As I embark on a new school year in less than two weeks, this book has challenged me to make many changes. Some of these changes are subtle while others are more drastic. Jackson makes a plea on one of the last pages of her book that I feel is important to keep in mind.
"Trying to make a radical change right away not only dooms you to failure, it creates a cynicism about change in general." (p. 201)
It is time to take a step back and look at the action lists I've created. Which changes can be made over the first few weeks and months? Which changes will take extended time to implement?

For those of you who have read this entire series of posts, what have you learned? What action steps are you going to take? If you are just tuning in or missed one of the principles, here is a list of the principles and links to my thoughts on each.
  1. Start where your students are.
  2. Know where your students are going.
  3. Expect to get your students there.
  4. Support your students.
  5. Use effective feedback.
  6. Focus on quality, not quantity.
  7. Never work harder than your students (this post)