All of these articles promote a very concise picture of what teachers should be doing: letting our students take control of their own learning. Of course as the facilitator, teachers need to be there in order to start them on their way. We are like Glinda the Good Witch telling Dorothy that she needs to head down the metaphorical Yellow Brick Road. While we point them in the right direction, the things our students need to truly learn, they must do themselves. We watch what they do, but shouldn’t interfere unless absolutely necessary (like for safety reasons)! The article “Teaching By Getting Out of the Way” is something that I think I would have trouble doing. I remember once being on a field trip with my students who were placed into groups where they had to do physical problem solving. For the most of the trip, the leaders at the various stations had told everyone in the groups what to do, and then had the teachers in charge of the groups lead them in how to work out the problems. Yet in one particular group, the leader at the station pulled me aside, and I almost felt helpless watching the group I was in charge of figure out the problem on their own.
But realistically, wasn’t that how I had learned? Hadn’t I had to figure things out on my own? For the longest time, I was the student who asked, “Is this okay? Is this what I’m supposed to do?” It wasn’t until middle school when most of my teachers told me I wasn’t allowed to ask if this was “what s/he wanted” that I was able to figure out what was needed. The sink or swim philosophy isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it forces students to learn. What we need to look out for are those who are sinking because they truly don’t understand or because they fear failure. Our job is to show students how to swim then throw the students in the pool, sweat it out as the students flail for a bit, and only pull them out if they can’t learn how to swim on their own, but watch in satisfaction when they are able to do what we know they are capable of doing.