Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to Rein in your Inner Control Freak in the Classroom

One of the problems I’ve faced year after year as a teacher is an inner battle with my desire to be in charge. All the time. The fact is that I am a control freak. I pretend I’m not and I’ll usually deny it but I doubt I’ve fooled anyone. I’m bossy and I like to be in charge. Especially in my classroom.  

I remember well the first time I heard the words ‘gradual release of responsibility’. I could feel the cold hands of fear grip and begin to squeeze my horrified inner control freak (let’s try ICF for short). Let the students take charge? In my kingdom (I mean, classroom)? Unlikely!

I know, I know, I’ve read the books. I’ve done the study. I really do want to help children to become confident, self-directed learners. What teacher doesn’t want to see their students blossom into critical and creative thinkers who take responsibility for their own learning? I know I do. I just don’t see why they can’t become independent while I tell them what to do?

Despite my best intentions, my classroom is less of a democracy and much more of a benevolent dictatorship. And to be honest I quite like it that way.  I understand best practice – it’s my ICF that doesn’t.

So after years of battling my desire to be in charge, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share. I’m sure my ICF is motivated by the fear that allowing kids more say in the learning process will result in a loss of control and pandemonium all round. But when I’ve actually dipped my toes into the world of releasing responsibility, I’ve found the opposite to be true. My most successful tips are:

Capitalize on what your students find interesting – holidays, special days, etc.
  • ·      ask them what they want to learn about
  • ·      listen
  • ·      incorporate their ideas if possible

In some learning contexts, let the kids choose
  • ·      where they will sit
  • ·      topics to research
  • ·      work partners
  • ·      how they wish to demonstrate their understanding

Please don’t be misled. This doesn’t happen all day, every day in my classroom. My ICF wouldn’t cope with that at all. I have learned, however, that when the learning tasks offer choice and are challenging and engaging, the classroom dynamic is great. Even my ICF appreciates that I get to spend more time teaching, guiding and facilitating and less time doing crowd control.

Here are some free critical and creative task cards that keep the kids engaged and my ICF in check at the same time! I hope they work as well for you as they have for my ICF and I.



  1. I have a bit of an ICF as well! "Benevolent dictatorship" says it all! It is amazing how responsible and self-directed they can be when we let them, isn't it? Thanks for the tips and the freebie!
    Laughter and Consistency