Monday, February 15, 2010

Letting Go

The other day in our class we were painting with tempera cakes (large dried cakes of tempera that you use like watercolors). Kids were dipping brushes in water and rubbing them on the cakes, painting vibrant colors (and watered down colors) on paper. At one point, I noticed that one girl has very clear water in her cup, but I didn't think much of it. A little later, I saw her pick up the cup, pour it into the sink, step up on the step stool, get water from the faucet, and return to the table. I had to contain my first reaction--to shout "What are you doing?"

In my classroom, I encourage kids to do things for themselves. My goal is to do nothing that the kids can do themselves. This helps them develop independence, responsibility, and life skills. But I must admit that sometimes it's hard for me to allow them to do some things...things that I think could create some problems. Or at least I would like them to ask before doing some of those I can monitor what is happening.

This time, A had changed her water at least once when I wasn't looking. And no mess developed. And even if it did, I would have helped her get some towels to clean it up. No big deal. So why did I almost freak out when I saw what she was doing?

I guess I have a tendency to keep control and to keep the kids from too much "failure." But I've learned that failure can be the best teacher. I didn't comment when A refilled her water a couple of times; I thanked her when she refilled a friend's water. And gave another child some guidance when he filled the cup a little too full.

Maybe I also don't want my kids to get too independent. Otherwise why would they need me. But that's the job of a teacher--keep working so that they don't need me anymore. I need to keep letting go. (But something tells me it won't be that easy.)

Tempera Cakes Photo from Discount School Supply


  1. It is hard to let go sometimes isn't it. The good news is, the more independence you foster the more children will keep coming back to you because you make them feel successful.

  2. Right on, Scott! It's hard sometimes, but soooo worth it!

  3. Scott, I fight internally with myself every day to let go. I think one of the hallmarks of good teacher is knowing when to step in and when to step back. Sometimes when I step back I'm blown away by what direction the kids take things, and then its my job to support that with resources or a few words here or there. But you are so right - its not easy to do. My first instinct is to control :)

  4. Kids learn so much when they are allowed to try things on their own...those lessons they learn through their own trial and errors really stick with them! I'm all for letting them work things out at a young age and learn independence when we are there to help them...and when the mistakes/issues are much easier to deal with!

  5. What a great blog. Came over from Deborah's blog, Excellence in Early Childhood Education!! I am enjoying reading your past posts!!