Planning to incorporate more learner-centered instruction can create a sense of overwhelm if you have only ever manned the controls yourself. To fully prepare could require you to invest hours of research, work, or possibly taking a course. With a growing to-do list, teachers may find themselves wondering how in the world they can tackle everything before school begins. I’m here to challenge you to start before you are ready.

Starting before you are reading seems to be a common theme in recent books and podcasts that I have personally consumed over the last several months. (Side note – those resources include authors and influencers such as Marie Forleo, Rachel Hollis, the podcast Living on Purpose with Randy Detrick, and Jen Sincero)

What does it even mean to start before you are ready? Well, think of it as taking steps towards a goal. The steps could be small, baby steps, or leaps and bounds. Something, anything to get you to where you want to be.

Let’s dive into some examples together.

  • Sketching 5 minutes every day to generate ideas and potential designs for a project.
  • Organizing your junk drawer before tackling that crazy chaotic hall closet.
  • Buying seeds or diagraming the spring garden.
  • Brainstorming ideal cities or neighborhoods where you’d like to live.
  • Having a conversation with someone who is in a career you think you would love for yourself.
  • Putting on your sneakers and workout clothes in anticipation of the hard work you’ll put in to become a healthier version of yourself.
  • Making the coffee and setting the delay ahead of the next morning.

Were you able to envision yourself doing any of these things? Maybe you are already starting before you are ready and can see just how easy it can be. Making bigger plans and bigger changes in the classroom may have you questioning this idea. Again, thinking about the big picture can be overwhelming. Starting before you are ready could allow you to start by chunking these tasks and breaking that big picture into more manageable actions.

What if you listened to or looked at some of these to help you achieve that learner-centered approach you are dreaming about?

  • Visit The Cult of Pedagogy where you can find a plethora of resources. One of the podcast episodes is about self-pacing in the classroom. Click here to listen to “Self-Paced Learning: How One Teacher Does It.” After you listen to the podcast, browse the blog or other podcast episodes to see what little steps you could incorporate into your classroom.
  • Follow this link to visit the website of Revolution School in Philadelphia where teachers and students work together to plan academics. If you’d like to listen to an interview with some of the leaders at Revolution School, listen here.
  • Good ole’ Facebook has so many teacher groups to join, so try one out for yourself! For the art teachers, here are some of my favorites: Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) Art Educators, Middle School TAB, High School TAB, Assessment & Accountability in TAB, Teachers Choosing CHOICE in the Art Room, TAB Room Design, and Choice-Art Educators.
  • The Modern Classrooms Project empowers educators of all grade levels and content areas to rethink student-centered education both inside the classroom and outside of the school walls.
  • Offer choices to your learners. In any way, shape, or form, start giving them some autonomy with a simple choice.

Ready to take more actionable steps? Then try one of these 3 things:

  • Learn more about The Gradual Release of Responsibility, which provides a framework of “I do,” “We do,” “You do together,” and “You do alone.” In this article by Fisher and Frey, you can read how this looks in instruction. Begin envisioning how you might implement The Gradual Release for one lesson.
  • Plan a unit that is driven by student choice. Give your class optional concepts, and then explore the most popular one. As you plan, ask for input, incorporate their input, and then ask for feedback once the you have completed the lesson.
  • Assess learning using differentiated strategies that work for a variety of learners instead of using a one-size-fits-all tool. (Because as we all know from standardized testing, there is no one-size-fits-all) You choose the assessment tools or better yet – allow your learners to select the one that best suits them.

In what ways are you already starting before you are ready to implement learner autonomy? Share your thoughts and ideas with – can’t wait to learn from you!