He Thinks He Is Steering

Earlier today my family took a trip to the mall. Basically so we could see that life does exist outside of our iPads and our tv’s. My two-year old son is currently at the age where he wants to run everywhere, really fast. So we have learned that the best way to contain him is to rent one of those strollers shaped like a race car. The kind that look like they were recently used in the X Games.

When we got to the mall we split up. My wife and daughter went to shop for clothes. My son and I went to visit the giant aquarium. As I was pushing him in his car/stroller I couldn’t help but notice that he had his hands on the wheel and was turning it to the left and to the right.

He thinks he is steering.
He really thinks he is steering.

And while I don’t dare tell him otherwise, it awakened me to the fact that I have an awesome responsibility. It is up to me to guide him through this game called Life, while at the same time allowing him the freedom to make his own decisions and make his own mistakes.

This is what we in education call the “gradual release of responsibility.” It is often what separates a good teacher from a great teacher. Furthermore, I think it is what separates a good leader from a great leader: the ability to know exactly when to push and when to back off.

“Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them…
And they flew.”

(French poet Guilliame Apollinaire)

As we continued to walk through the mall today my son “steered” his car, and I continued to guide him where he needed to go. But I know there will come a time when I need to let go of the wheel and let him drive.

Not yet.

Not today.

I, no we, still have much to learn from one another as we travel this road together.

For now though I will continue to steer, because as Darius Rucker laments in the title of his painfully true song, “It won’t be like this for long.”

1 Comment »

  1. Jon, This is such a powerful post (and song link) on so many levels. I think of my own three children as well as the 821 students I consider my own at school…we have such an awesome responsibility to help them be their best today, so they can each thrive in their own unique tomorrows. Because after all, as you so aptly stated, it won’t be like this for long…and they will be steering on their own soon! Thanks for a thoughtful post as always! Brad

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