Monday, January 5, 2009

Of Helicopters and Hovering

In a recent blogpost by Brad Ovenell-Carter he shared an interesting diagram he created (featured below) meant illustrate the evolution of a teacher's control or influence over student learning from K - 12.

The thing that struck me is that the same diagram could be used to explore the evolution of a parent's control or influence over their child's activities and relationships as they grow. Theoretically, as our children grow and gain maturity we let them venture a little further away. We allow them access to other children, first supervised and eventually unsupervised. We introduce them to experts like piano teachers, coaches or scout masters and at first these connections are made through us but eventually they find their own. We allow them to take on more responsibility and grant more freedoms as a result. It follows the old "give them roots and wings" adage.

It doesn't always work that way, sometimes as parents we never make it past that first "elementary" stage, thus the term "helicopter-parenting" was coined. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a series of parenting workshops by David Irvine and he touched on the concept of helicopter parenting (which in my understanding would be the opposite of the model above). His contention was that when we "helicopter parent" our children we are sending them the message "You are not capable". Every bump we smooth out tells them we thought they couldn't negotiate the ride. Every problem we solve for them says "you couldn't have solved it on your own". Each mistake we shield them from indicates they aren't capable of handling the consequences of mistakes. A fairly sobering concept to say the least.

I wonder sometimes if we can apply the same model to education. If children can be helicopter parented does it stand to reason that they can be helicopter educated as well? What does helicopter educating look like? Are we unintentionally giving children the message that they are not capable? How can technology assist in turning Brad's vision into a reality?

My hope is that by the time my child graduates they know they are capable of recovering from mistakes, of problem solving, of negotiating around, through or over any bump in the road and that they can learn anything they set their mind on. I hope they have been rooted in good practices and have the wings to continue their own learning for a lifetime. That's the vision I see in Brad's diagram and I like what I see.

No comments: