Another dot in the blogosphere?

Help that doesn’t

Posted on: January 1, 2017

I had dinner out with an elderly relative yesterday. He noticed my son was not as good as using chopsticks as the rest of us so he called a server over and asked for a fork. He did not ask my son or us if a fork was warranted, and he got an earful from my wife.

What was the issue? He thought my son was struggling and he sought to help.

The deeper issues were that 1) the help was not needed as my son, while not the best user of chopsticks, was feeding himself just fine, and 2) he was reinforcing old behaviour and an easier way out.

The latter is a lesson for all who see ourselves as educators. We care for our learners and wish to help. Before we do, we should consider if the help treats a symptom or deals with a deeper seated-problem.

We might also determine if our help addresses a short-term problem but creates unnecessary dependence or reinforces old habits, or if not helping immediately and instinctively is actually better help.

If students are to learn from mistakes and struggle, they must be able to make mistakes and struggle. If we step in and help too much, we are not helping at all.

These are judgement calls we might be called upon to make every day. I hope that we do a better job of helping by knowing when and how to not help our learners in 2017.

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