Who is driving the learning the process?

The drive from Pittsburgh, PA to Columbus Grove, OH takes anywhere from 4 hours and 15 minutes to 4 hours and 45 minutes, depending on the route. This is where my parents and my in-laws live so we make the drive frequently. Every time my wife and I get ready to make the trip, we have a discussion on which route to take. Should we take the turnpike, state highways, or interstates. The turnpike is the fastest, but costs about $25 in tolls. The interstates are my chosen route because I’m directionally-challenged and it is the simplest route. Her preferred route uses the state highways because she likes the scenery. Ultimately, it boils down to who is doing the driving. We mount the smartphone on the dashboard for assistance when we need it, and in the end, we always get to our destination

While listening to speakers at the Southwest Pennsylvania Personalized Learning Conference, I could not manage to get this idea out of my head.

In our classroom why aren’t we having this discussion with our students? As teachers we have the ultimate destination of mastery of standards. In most classrooms, teachers are the drivers, and control the route we take. This is frequently the fastest and simplest route. Students passively sit in the passenger seat and take in the surroundings while the teachers drive on.

Students should be the drivers in our classroom.

If they want to take the scenic route, we should be there to help them, so they don’t get lost.

If a student wants to take the turnpike, pay a little more and get there faster, we should facilitate that also.

The best educators focus on process over product, or in this case the route rather than the destination. As educators we should be the smartphone on the dashboard, providing information and help only when it’s asked for. It’s not the easy way of designing and implementing instruction, but doing what is best for the students in our classroom rarely is.


Andrew Cress will be in his 7th year teaching during the 2019-2020 school year. He currently serves as a 4th-grade teacher at Duquesne Elementary School. Since earning his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University he has been passionate about underserved and struggling school districts, and he believes that collaborative and social-emotional learning is the key to changing the stigma in underserved and struggling districts. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and their two cats Ernest and Stella, is a lifelong Penguins fan, and an avid reader.

For questions or more information about The TeamBuilders Group program:

Telephone: 773.339.6557 • Email: jordan@teambuildersgroup.com

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