It’s obvious but I just need to say it in a brief form:
When the teacher (as many good teachers do) decides to pull away and give students space to grow, when they pull away much of their authority, this does not mean that what is left is a class of equals.
What remains is a classroom of unequals due to:
A. Personality (duh)
D. Competency in the subject matter
E. You get where i am going with this, so I will stop
So when we “let” students facilitate their own discussion, some will emerge as leaders; some will be more benevolent and democratic while others will be autocratic or hog the conversation. Some will feel more confident and comfortable to speak up, others may be more shy than when the teacher was there. Before letting go the teacher needs to have created a somewhat safe environment and sense of community and trust amongst students to be able to pull back and not make them feel abandoned (this is easier in some contexts than others).
When I do things like encourage students to come up with their own assessment criteria I don’t delude myself. Some people will better articulate their ideas, say them louder, convince the others. This will happen.
In the end students know who really holds the grades so this stays in the back of their minds. My power does not disappear it just goes to the background.
So when a teacher pulls away some of their power from the classroom, what really happens isn’t a classroom of equals. It is a classroom where authority does not reside in just one person. And that’s good. But it’s not the end of the story so let’s not forget that 🙂
We need to pull back so our students know they can learn, do, be, without us. If they can’t do it without us we have failed as teachers (and as parents). But it is a completely different thing to let them think we no longer “have their backs”. Or to assume all will reach the stage of not needing us at the same time we decide to step back.
So what do we do about that?