Last weekend I spent some time at home with my two and a half year old niece. She is extremely well behaved (even cleans up after herself) but occasionally I was in the position to remind her to be cautious. I found myself using the voice I sometimes use with students. It went something like this – “before you walk on the edge of the stairs again, let’s think about what might happen,” or “let’s stop and think for a minute, what are the consequences of running around with food in your mouth?” While I know full well I said most of these things for the benefit of my sister, not my niece – I’m curious why the same voice I occasionally use with students came out toward a child.
In the last year anticipating potential consequences has become a regular part of my practice. While I understand that part of my role, as an administrator, is to see things in ways my students cannot, I wonder if my regulation of their ideas and creativity inhibits their growth.
It has occurred to me that being asked to constantly check in with those above me on each idea or new initiative my students dream up can serve to narrow, control and assist in pushing the ‘right’ agenda. We tell ourselves that we don’t want students to fail or get out of hand; to this end we’ve implemented policies to protect students from themselves – but what are we inhibiting in doing so? While I never enrolled in a legal issues course, I understand a little about liability and the ‘CYA’ thing. I get that we have regulations so that if something happens we can say we took measures to train and educate our students on X, Y or Z.
At the same time I’m expected to be a helicopter parent to my students because I must report up any change before it has the potential to happen to my own helicopter supervisors. The goal of the practice of reporting up is positive, soothing any possible tension before it happens but, I know, to my students – this feels like a restraint.
So – how do you flip the script? How do you allow students to follow through with their dreams when so many regulations are in place? What amazing things may happen if we stopped babying our students and allowed them to use their full potential? Sure, perhaps there may be some flops but unless we try, we have no idea what amazing initiatives, events or actions our students may engage in. Maybe I trust my students more than most but I’m willing to take a chance because I know the innovation of my students will challenge me to be a better professional.