Mr Kemp

The scary thought of letting our children lead a discussion – ahhhhh!!

I have always been the type of teacher who is relaxed and easy going and never even considered what it would be like to not let children in my class take leadership roles or even lead a discussion.

Over the past few years I have been in several classrooms where this is not the case and it has always baffled me – why on Earth are some teachers so scared to let go and let their children take over ….

As a result of these recently I tried this in my classroom …. FAIL!!!

I was controlling and demanding and told the children what had to happen and gave them everything they needed (i.e. told them how to learn and told them everything – giving them no opportunity to find out). They did not know what had struck them – “Mr K’s gone crazy” one girl said to her friend at lunchtime – I had to laugh because I felt like I was mad too. The children all of a sudden had shut up shop. The children who were always creative and thought outside the box had stopped sharing and the children who were always willing to share their opinion or give feedback did not bother to even put their hands up.

I really do have high expectations of my children and I am relaxed compared to other teachers but that is my style and nothing that anyone can tell me will change that – as a teacher it is so important to have your own style. I feel that my style helps children in my class relate to me and feel comfortable around me quickly and as a result I get fantastic things out of the children in my classroom. This is not an opportunity for me to talk about myself just reflect on my style as a teacher.


Why in our school’s are there still teachers that are this controlling? Surely people can see that letting go is OK …. Why are teacher’s afraid to let go and give children the opportunity to take over and take ownership of their learning.

This was more of a discussion starter than a blog post I guess but I am very interested to hear other people’s ideas around this topic and to hear some success stories where teachers have “seen the light” …

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts soon 🙂

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Craig Kemp

Craig Kemp

I am a passionate Head of Educational Technology at a large International School in Singapore. I am a lifelong learner, dream creator and thought leader. I love to inspire others and find inspiration. Co-founder of #whatisschool, #asiaED edchats and #pubPD.

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  • Have to totally agree – we need our children to be problem-solvers, collaborators and also independent and we cannot expect them to be able to do this if we never allow them to! Guidance and facilitation is our role NOT domination and dictation!

  • Have to totally agree – we need our children to be problem-solvers, collaborators and also independent and we cannot expect them to be able to do this if we never allow them to! Guidance and facilitation is our role NOT domination and dictation!

  • I think letting go of control is inherently risky, and that is why many people don’t like to do it. It opens the door to the unpredictable, the un-planned for, and I think that can be scary for many people. And yet it is in these unpredictable moments that so often genuine learning takes place.

    I have been thinking about similar issues with regard not to class discussion, but in regards to our online spaces. At the moment, only I have editing access to our class wiki. I have created accounts for the students, but haven’t given them their passwords yet. When do I ‘let go’ and invite them in as fellow builders of the wiki, contributing content and ideas, learning as they go, making mistakes etc?? This is the next step for me – making our online space their space, as much as I try to make the physical classroom their space.

  • Thank you both for the comments 🙂
    Craig – that is interesting – I am one of the only ones in my school who has let go and given my children access to editing their wiki and having their own accounts – in fact I made them create their own and it is so powerful – check out our wiki and see what they get up to on their individual pages!
    It is so powerful giving them ownership of their own space and mistakes happen but let go 😛

  • Hi Craig,
    A great discussion starter. What sprung in to my mind was a recent analogy used during a week long literacy PD at my school. Classroom conversation should be like a game of basketball with the whole team passing the conversation between them. We also discussed teaching children the skills of conversation to enhance classroom discussion.
    Though having an open style does help to break down the boundaries, I would also add that being honest and doing what you say you will goes a long way to creating the type of classroom you describe.

  • My class have their own wiki login and access but we created a class online treaty which we brainstormed and collaborated on prior to posting it on our wiki and THEN the children had access to the wiki and blogs. It meant that I had set very clear guidelines and expectations for the mutual trust of them using this forum as their reflection and as their learning zone. A space, as you say, which is now an extension to our classroom. It is working brilliantly and they are happily operating well within our agreed parameters!

  • I love that freedom, but sometimes you also need balance. I teach grade 2 students , and now I have a problem. Sometimes, they stray away in the classroom, they wander around in the class playing, or chit chatting. They are not listening to instructions, on how to do a certain task.Even the bright ones, just go in different centers (Reading), while we are studying maths.. etc. .I’m very confused. any help?

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