“Trust Your Students”

I have not been my best self this past week.

We have the staging of PYPx coming up and as a result, all of our time and energy has been spent supporting students to plan for and create a symbolic piece that represents their journey as a learner and stimulate conversation with whomever shall visit their display. (more on that later)

I’ve been overwhelmed, wrapped up, anxious and frazzled.

And it must have been showing because today a student came up and asked me…

“Miss Taryn are you in a bad mood?”

So, I had to answer honestly…

“Yeah, you know what – I am. I feel anxious and stressed and concerned.”

So she kindly followed up with…


And so I shared my worries…

“I’m worried that my students aren’t putting in enough time and effort to get ready for the staging of PYPx. I’m worried that their parents and the community are going to be disappointed in what they produce. I’m worried that they won’t reach their level of success by May 22. I’m worried they aren’t using their time management, planning or organizational skills to their full extent. I’m worried they might not be holding themselves to a high enough standard…”

And her response was so clear. So kind. So simple. So true…

“Miss Taryn, you have to trust your students.”

Trust my students…

She was right. That was the piece of the puzzle I had been missing. I had been guiding, encouraging, advising, helping… but not trusting.

I had gotten so caught up in worrying about how everything was going to look and be perceived by others, that I had lost sight of the big picture. That even though this was the destination of their PYP journey, it’s still about the journey as they prepare for this destination. It’s about the process, not the product. About the thinking, not the doing. About them owning their own learning, planning their own time, making their own decisions, seeking help, choosing to gather feedback, and wanting to take it to the next level. For themselves.

Not for me. Not for their parents.

For themselves.

It doesn’t have to be perfect… it just has to be them. True, authentic, genuine them.

And in order for it to be truly, authentically, genuinely them… I need to give them time and space (like I have all year) to make mistakes, fail, run out of time, learn, reflect and, inevitably, grow.

And most importantly, in the words of Thao Nhu, I need to trust my students.

So trust, I will.

7 thoughts on ““Trust Your Students”

  1. mcleansullivan May 15, 2018 / 7:41 am

    Another refreshingly honest post about an important issue. The tension between style and substance is something that’s been occupying us also lately as we focus more on student ownership of events. One needs to let go, but still manage something worthwhile, and convince everyone that great learning has happened. The temptation is to run to the rescue of students rather than to ask the students how they will rescue themselves!


  2. Sonya terBorg May 15, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    I worry/am concerned by this issue and how it pertains to grit/persistence/stick-ability. So many ideas end up in the “too hard” basket when teachers step back and trust the students. I wonder: were they interested to begin with? what DO they stick with (i.e. have they a record of being able to stick with something?) what constraints/parameters/scaffolds have been present in their past that have not added to their ability to “do for themselves”? how might we create opportunities prior to Exhibition for this kind of agentic learning? And then 1000 x over: What am I doing wrong?! The tension keeps me motivated and at the same time, when I see children afforded SO much in terms of the education/schooling they are getting and the levels of apathy (despite/because of?) our intentions, I do become frustrated. Learner agency rejected has to be one of the hardest pills for me to swallow.


  3. Andrea Clark May 15, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    We just finished our Exhibition about two weeks ago, and there were definitely times when I didn’t trust my students. But they did a great job, and everyone was very proud and impressed by the work that they did and the learning that they had achieved. I think they were a little surprised in themselves as well.


  4. Lucy Abrams May 15, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    I was mentoring a PYPX group and I feel your pain! The letting go is very hard but usually it pays off. Particularly IF those kids have grown throughout primary school being given plenty of opportunities for some degree of self management. I teach G1 and am fairly new to PYP but have been pleasantly surprised by what my little ones can achieve when I do let the reigns loose. It can only go on to support upper primary if we do this in lower primary more and more often. It’s all too easy to get tied into the mindset of how work they produce is perceived by colleagues and parents who don’t always appreciate/follow/understand the ethos of student agency.


  5. mburnell4 May 16, 2018 / 10:44 am

    This is EXACTLY my feelings right now! Thank you for being real and honest!


  6. developingglobalcitizens May 16, 2018 / 10:53 am

    Having had the amazing opportunity of spending some time with you and your students last week, I can say that students were able to clearly articulate their journeys, and their symbolic pieces seemed genuine and personalized. I understand that feeling of pressure – especially in regard to time – but I think your student was right: they will get there. The PYPx journey itself is so much more important than the product. If displays are unfinished but students can articulate that journey, what a success that will be.

    Liked by 1 person

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