But sometimes, I think I let my students struggle a little too much. There has to be a balance, and it's a balance I'm still working on after eleven years in the classroom. It also seems to be the product of experience rather than skill or content knowledge.
As a young teacher, I didn't want to let my students struggle, ever. I wanted them to be comfortable and interested and engaged because everything was Just So Engaging Because I Said It Was! I didn't realise that the students needed to be working harder than I was; frankly, I'm not sure anyone could have worked harder than I did that first year.
I grew more experienced, and probably leaned too far in the other direction. In the name of constructivism, I explained far too little and expected far too much.
There are some things that work best as direct instruction, and there are things that work best as student-centred constructivism. Again, it's about finding balance between telling them ALL OF THE THINGS and letting them discover ALL OF THE THINGS.
As a guide, I can explain when necessary and point to experts when it's not. Or I can ask a good question and just be silent as they figure out their answer. Those skills are ones bourne out of the struggle I've faced as I developed as a teacher, and the ones that will produce the most healthy struggle from my students.
I don't ever want them to feel hopeless or stupid, but I do want them to be challenged every single day. I don't want them to fail, unless it leads to reflection of how to do better next time. I don't want them to be handed all the knowledge, because I want them to have the joy of figuring it out for themselves.
Creating struggle is part of my job as a teacher. It's also my job to create the kind of environment where struggle is safe. Without both of those factors, I can't be successful as a teacher.
How do you use struggle in your classroom? How do you balance constructivism with direct instruction? How do you make struggle safe?
*such as my skill in using an intentional sentence fragment while I'm teaching sentence fluency.