This month our focus has been on Freedom in Structure and I have enjoyed working with it in my class, reflecting on it, reading about it and blogging about it. This is definitely a topic that will reoccur here at The Inspired Classroom site and magazine.

In my first post on the subject, I contemplated what Freedom in Structure is, but now that this month is ending and I type up my last post for the series, I am thinking about how the two words have become one thought for me. They have a relationship.

And I wonder, do they need each other?

What would freedom look like without structure? My first thought is that kids might love it. A chance to play, get creative … go crazy! But think about it, there is such a thing as too much freedom. Imagine the child who is allowed to do whatever he wants, say whatever he wants, have whatever he wants, and what do we do when we see that? Well, I think, “Where is that child’s parents?” In other words, “Where is his structure system?”

What would structure look like without freedom? I think of a child who is closed in, does what he is asked to, doesn’t ask questions, just accepts what he is given…shut down. When I see this – a child who is not given any freedom, (whether it is at home or in the classroom), I am saddened.

We all need structure and we need freedom. We need to know our boundaries so that we can work within them, challenge them and grow out of them. It is, in fact, our responsibility as teachers to give structure to our students. Whether you see that as coaching them, educating them, guiding them or instilling in them a love of learning.

There needs to be a balance…

It has been through these blogs and the activities I’ve done connected to them this month that I have discovered these things. (It’s amazing how blogging and Twittering has given me a chance to push my own professional process!) Discovering the relationship between structure and freedom for myself has allowed me to grow as a teacher and realize that I need to create more structure in some areas and less in others. I need to give my students more freedom in some things and less in others.

As I was looking for a piece of clip art to accompany this post (searching freedom and structure), I came across the dam with rushing water and after a lol, I realized that was it! A perfect metaphor for this relationship between two concepts juxtaposed. The structure of the dam gives enough guidance to direct the flow, and yet, the water is free to move and do what it needs to do. There is a sense of certainty and gravity in the dam and a childlike urgency in the water. (Work with me, here ;-), but you get it!) Our job as dams for our students allows them to flow freely.

Thoughts? Please comment. I always love to hear from others!

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