Just Let the Kids Do It

“Just let the kids do it,” our dance teacher often sighs at me.

I’ll admit. I’m a bit of a control freak. Like to the point I will unload the dishwasher after my mother loads it, only to reload it properly. I’ve even rewashed clothes and remade the beds after my children helped do chores.

Over the last couple of years, I have began to realize how true it is that I should just let the kids do it. Students enjoy helping with mundane tasks, and I believe it teaches them responsibility, accountability, and basic life skills. As school libraries are becoming the center of learning commons and the makerspace movement, I think we all just need to let the kids do it.

Do what, exactly?

Just let the kids…choose the lessons.

Yes, I know. We have frameworks and standards to teach. But, those frameworks and standards don’t tell us the lesson we must do. Allow students the opportunity to vote or choose a topic for research isn’t a new idea. Allow students to bask in the glow when you say, “I don’t know.” Look it up together. Dig deeper into what they want to learn.

Rebecca Alber said in her Edutopia article:

Co-constructing knowledge means giving up the myself and them role of teacher and students and fully embracing the wonder and journey of us.

Just let the kids…do the dirty work.

As a music and performing arts school, there is plenty of dirty work to be done. We typically have six to eight large performances a year, not counting dance team performances. The students that are part of the stage crew help move and assemble stage props, put together costumes, and carry bags of props. Our science department is very hands-on. Students often haul bags of dirt, help rake leaves, and work the school vegetable garden.

In preparation for family events or Scholastic Book Fairs, I recruit students to hang posters, rearrange tables, and fold pamphlets. It’s busy work (and sometimes dirty work), but the students enjoy having a “job” to do.

Our dance teacher spent a class period having students pair up and organize tap shoes. What did they learn? A pair consists of two things that match. Left vs. right. Style and size. They learned to clean and organize. They learned that the performance will run more smoothly if all the costumes and props are sorted, organized, and prepared for the performers. And they didn’t even know it. They thought they were just matching up some tap shoes.

Just let the kids…clean.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of students who don’t know how to clean. Basic cleaning skills like sweeping and dusting are becoming a lost art form. Every couple of weeks, I fill up a bucket of warm soapy water and drag out the cleaning rags. I let the students wipe down the tables and shelves. Some will dust off the computer and in the window sills. They’re always amazed at how dirty everything truly is. Yes, we have custodians that do this job, as well; however, when you have over 500 students utilizing a space weekly, things can get rather disgusting. And some schools are now relying on students to clean rather than custodians.

Just let the kids do it!

This year I ventured into self-check-in. Oh. My. Gosh. As I stood by watching the first few students use the iPad to scan their book, I was in physical pain. I wanted to take it from them and do it for them. But what would that have taught the student? That Ms. Ashley is just going to do it, so why bother?

I think just letting the kids do it is also a great lesson to the control freaks like me. Step back, and let the kids do it. I promise they can if you let them try.

Self Check-in


Author: Ashley Cooksey

Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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