Monday, August 23, 2010

Kindling Wood vs Crutches

Wood is useful stuff.
Consider two possible uses for wood: kindling wood or crutches.

Kindling starts a fire. Crutches help support you.

Teachers are useful people.
Consider two possible uses for teachers: kindling wood or crutches.

As teachers, should we lay back and let students figure it out for themselves or nuture them along?

Suppose I have a student who sometimes oversleeps for lessons. His/Her lesson is at 9:30 am and I suspect they won't make it. It is 9:00 am. What should I do? Should I call them to make sure they are awake??

If I think of myself as kindling wood, then I'm trying to get a fire to burn in this student. Thus I want to help them along. A "kindling wood" teacher makes the call (possibly waking them up).

If I realize that the more I do for a student, the more I become a crutch and they never develop the self-discipline to make it on the own. To not become a "crutch," a teacher doesn't make the call (possibly letting them oversleep).

So these two uses for wood are a symbol for the fundamental question faced by all teachers: is it "sink or swim" or is it "helping hands."

Of course, there is no one answer but it something worth considering.