Independence Day

Teachers constantly complain about many things. Their workload, lack of other adults in the classroom, and the lack of independence of their students. Indeed, at the start of almost every CPD course (the bit where the big piece of paper and marker pens come out – and teachers tell each other about what they don’t know for ten minutes), the lack of independent learners is almost always mentioned, then never actually addressed.


We seem to expect them to become independent without us doing anything about it. We run to them every time they get stuck, then complain they ask for our help all the time. This is somewhat odd when we sit down and think about it.


So, tip time (actually not ours, but it is so good we have to share it) if we want independent learners, we’d better actually train them.


One very good strategy is 3B4me (three before me) I could not believe some people do not know about this; it is a cracking tip.


This means that students may not ask the teacher for help when stuck unless they have first consulted at least three sources of help. The three might vary depending on the circumstances in a particular school, but here’s an example.


Your three might be:


·  Think about it carefully

·  Ask a friend

·  Go and consult a textbook


Only then may they ask the teacher, who asks ‘3B4me?’, and the student replies, ‘yes, I had a good think, I asked Terri, and then I had a read of spotlight chapter 3, but I’m still stuck’.


Again, openness with the students is key here; tell them why you are doing it. It’s not because you are busy, it’s because they will get better at learning, and as they get older, they’ll need these skills. You’ll be surprised just how often a student actually solves their own problem before asking you and learns not to just immediately look for a teacher at the slightest sign of difficulty. Also, tell the students that all the good teachers in the school do it, no one should be working alone without help.