Getting Out of the Way

The principal thing I learned this year, working with E, was how to get out of the way.

It’s a strange thing, really. Given a job, our first reaction as humans is to somehow make our involvement in that job visible, and relevant, and valuable. We want to do the job, as an action verb; how will anyone know I did the job unless I take action? But with gifted education, particularly with a profoundly gifted child, the first order of business is getting out of the way.

This is, in large part, because children with intellectual intensity want to learn. They’re vectors, of motion and intensity, and when you get between them and their goal, you slow the learning process down. It’s possible, in a hundred ways, to do that; to insist on being the teacher, to insist on taking a pedagogical stance, to insist that this is your job, to teach, and you must be an on-stage actor in order to be valuable in that respect.

It’s also wrong.

What I saw this year was a child that, given support, and encouragement, and direction when necessary – and I’m careful to italicize that concept, when necessary – the job of the teacher is to let the student learn in the way that’s best for him or her. It was truly an amazing thing to stand back and watch, and when I finally learned to stop fighting this fact – in October of 2011 – the year blossomed for her. It opened up and became magical. And all it took was getting out of the way.

Was I absent from the process? No – I was beside E the entire year, suggesting, collaborating, co-designing, informing here and there, filling in context and gap knowledge and providing connections where they didn’t exist yet. But I taught beside her – not in front of her – and that made all the difference.

One response to this post.

  1. […] under the banner of a genre that E reads well (science fiction and fantasy). And, in my pre-Get Out of the Way mindset, I was going to do it all in very traditional didactic […]


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