I have the same thought all the time. My daughter makes me a better teacher. I’ve experienced so much of the world through her eyes and continue to as she grows up. She has a way of drinking in the world that’s like breathing in the entire universe at once. One of the most important lessons she has taught me is struggle. I remember the moment I took this photo. She wasn’t timid at all. She ran into the waves with a kind of unabashed fear, drinking the world in. I’m sure when I took the picture, I was also making a mental list of all the dangers ahead… jellyfish, sharks, undercurrents, sharp rocks in the sand. Everything inside me wanted to scoop her up and carry her into the water like we had many times before. But this journey was all hers. Our role was to step back and let go. Even if that meant sitting in the sand, watching quietly, while she journeyed out on her own, pulling on my heart with a little string.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that same tug at my heart while teaching. Wishing to make things okay for a student. Wanting to “fix their struggle” by changing the assignment or providing an answer. But, as I’ve some to realize, sometimes that’s just not my role. Sometimes it’s my turn to step back and let go. It’s hard to know exactly when to do this and it takes practice, but it’s even harder to actually do it. It feels wrong, until it pays off. Because when that experience rolls over into learning, it’s so authentic and real, you realize you did that kid a favor… just by getting out of their way. And the look on their face? Satisfaction earned.
In all of my college coursework and graduate school, and even PD, I’ve never seen more clearly how letting go at just the right time is so essential, than in my experiences as a mom and teacher. Now our trips to the beach look far different, because she’s older, and she can swim, and watch out for jellyfish on her own. And I still stand back, keeping an eye on the water for giant shark fins, and I still let go. And it still breaks my heart a little every time. Learning isn’t easy for any of us, no matter what our role is. But, it’s a beautiful journey when we stop and think about it. A journey that becomes even more beautiful when we let go.