My Dilemma with Initiative

With our recent #BFC630NZ chat topic sharing and discussing ‘how you foster initiative and encourage students to think for themselves’ it seemed appropriate to title this post My Dilemma with Initiative.

As I tweeted during the chat this morning, I am becoming frustrated at my students’ lack of initiative and willingness (ability?) to think for themselves. Although there weren’t too many REASONS shared this morning there was certainly some brilliant ideas shared as to how we can foster and encourage this virtue in our classrooms.

Having reflected on my dilemma most of the day I am ready to delve into ‘what it really means’ and ‘why some students might be lacking in this virtue’.

Initiative can be described as ‘readiness and ability initiating an action’ or in a slightly different context ‘one’s personal, responsible decision’. There are three key words here to concentrate on: readiness, ability, and responsible. So how do we know when a child is ‘ready’ to initiate an action? What sort of ‘ability’ is required for a student to initiate an action? At Year 7 I would like to think students are ready AND have the ability to initiate a responsible action or decision. After all… they are 11 and 12.

To be fair when I actually think about it, most in my class do. I can come into my class after lunch and many students will grab a book, or a piece of paper to draw on, or some work from the morning to carry on with while I do my roll on eTap and get ready for what is next!

Maybe I am too quick to focus on ‘the ones who don’t’… there is a reason for this though…they will be the few who proceed to distract those students who HAVE ‘thought for themselves’, they will be the few who feel the need to be loud and want / need attention, and they will be the ones who are not ready or have the ability to initiate a responsible action or decision.

Now the hard part….WHY?

I am thinking:

  • they have not been given enough opportunities to make their own decisions in the past
  • someone has always made decisions for them
  • they are lazy
  • they simply do not have the ability to do so / they are not ready

For the students in my class I think it is a combination of the first two. Our classrooms need to become places where students are expected to make responsible decisions and choices. Places where they are taught HOW to think through a choice or decision and the questions to ask if they need to modify and alter their decision if they have to. But this needs to be occurring before they reach us at Intermediate School. Kids are more than capable of learning how to make responsible decisions and choices but they need to be given the opportunity.

In classrooms where the teacher is telling kids what to do, when to do it, and how to do it…there is not a lot of opportunity for kids to make decisions for themselves. An example the other day was “do I write my last name?” Rather than ‘think’ about what the work was for and whether the last name was important in the context, the question had to be asked. Maybe it is a ‘fear of being wrong’ which was the reason for the question.

And therein lies the stuff for another post… the importance of building a culture of support, risk-taking, and Growth Mindset! Does this need to be in place BEFORE some kids will show initiative?

I will leave you with this quote which is one I share when the moment arises at the beginning of the year…usually on Day 2!




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