A recent study by researchers at Harvard focused on determining the classroom practices that encouraged students to take initiative and act with purpose in their lives and the lives of others. While the study identified teacher care and concern as an important element of student success, it noted that if teachers are overly supportive or accommodating, they teach students not to persist when school work becomes challenging. The same is true if we, as teachers and parents, intervene too quickly when a student struggles with a difficult task. Some of the most important skills we can teach are those developed by learning how to struggle with challenges.
As educators and parents, it is tempting to intervene too quickly in the challenges faced by our children, whether it’s to help them with an academic challenge or to allow them to opt out of uncomfortable tasks. For example, it’s not everyone’s idea of fun to go camping in -10 degree weather, but every year many students return from our winter Outdoor Education program glad they went and proud of their accomplishments. The ubiquity of electronic communication makes it easy for kids to reach out in situations that do not pose a safety or health risk and ask parents to help them. But, to become empowered, students need opportunities to develop a sense of agency. Let’s continue to work together to make this possible for our students.