Monday, March 9, 2009

Slow Down and Let Him Put on His Shoes

When my now six year old son was three and four, he had a fierce independence streak. He wanted to brush his teeth, get dressed, and put on his coat and shoes all by himself. When this started, we celebrated. We’d say, “Look at what a big boy you are!”

As time went on, I found myself cheering his accomplishments less and less. I was in a rush. I had places to be, things to do. Instead of encouraging my son to do things for himself, I insisted on doing them for him. I usurped the responsibility of putting on his shoes, zipping up his coat. Why? It was quicker. Shamefully, it was more convenient for me.

Now I have a six year old son who, when it is time to go to the bus stop or leave the house, refuses to put his shoes and coat on by himself. Where once he was so willing and eager to do it on his own, I created a monster who depends on me to do it for him.

When I think about the mistakes I have made with my son, my thoughts turn to writing workshop. Teachers contend with students who refuse to write on a daily basis. In our rush to confer and meet the needs of 20-25 children, we do the equivalent of “put the shoes” on these writers. Because we are in a hurry and we have places to be and things to do, we tell them what they need to do as writers. We list ideas for them to choose from as we tap our foot and hurry them to get started. Each time we rush a child, we need to remember that while it may not be convenient at this moment, the time we invest in helping children understand the writing process saves us a lot of time in the future. Ultimately, we want these writers to know what to do when we’re not there and if we teach them to rely on us to do their thinking for them, really, what have we taught them? Learning and thinking takes time. Sometimes, we can’t rush it.

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