Get Out of the Way

Today, I took a moment out of each of my classes to stop and look around the room.  Everywhere, there was activity and discussion, invention and debate, as well as reflection and perseverance happening in droves.  Heads were focused on their work, hands were pointing or gesturing in explanation, and exclamations of excitement were happening all over the place.

It was, simply put, a beautiful sight.

Currently, the students are working on passion projects.  We refer to them in my room as learning in its most authentic form.  Students find something they are curious and passionate about, and then, explore it.  It’s beautiful to watch.  It is simple and complex all at the same time.

The best part of all of it is this … I’m not really there.  I mean, physically I’m there … asking a question or two, smiling at the joy of a new discovery.  But I’m not there … not as the teacher.  As Maria Montessori would say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

I have successfully gotten out of their way.

It makes me think about how, if we get down to the root of it, learning is simply the main idea in education.  But there is so much more that gets wrapped up in it, both good and bad.  This happens in the real world as well.  There is so much we are bombarded with day in and day out.  As learners, as leaders, as parents, as children … as human beings.  There’s a lot.  Just to be a person in this world, there’s a lot.

So how do we manage all of it?  How do we sift and winnow through all the things to find out what is important?  In my room, I know the focus will always be put squarely on learning.  I set up that focus to be finely tuned, then I back way off.

I get out of the way.

It isn’t always easy.  I catch myself being too quick to jump in and provide answers when the student really needs the time to explore the question.  I start drawing out my transitions words (oooooh, sooooo, and uummmm) while I mentally remind myself to get out of the way.  I make myself think of what it feels like when somebody jumps in and provides answers for me when I don’t want them to.  I remind myself of whose learning it is … and I get out of the way.

And do you know what happens then?  Magic.  Innovation.  Creativity.  Exploration. Collaboration. Celebration.


Let’s get out of the way.

Let’s put the focus on the main idea … learning.  Let’s leave the stuff that is truly junk behind.  Let’s stop being so quick to provide answers and to wallow more in the questions.  Let’s think about whose learning it is and how we can best support that.  Let’s do this in every level and every facet of education.

Let’s see what amazing things happen when we all get out of the way.

Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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