Sometimes You Need to Sit in the Passenger’s Seat


My daughter is soon turning in seventeen years old and I usually sit in the passenger seat when we are riding together.  Yes, it was difficult at first, but it is slowly getting better.  I would not want her to be scared to drive or always look to me for leadership in the car.  I remember the first few trips or maybe the first one hundred when she had turned fifteen;  we were in the training period, a transition time of sorts.  More for me to adapt, not so much her.  She knew all the  basics…all those years of playing red light, green light in the house with Grandma Peggy.  She knew the rules about those lines on the road, too, maybe because she has played basketball for six years, it was about keeping the ball in bounds.  She knew how to steer- lots of practice with dad on the John Deere mower.  Now you can have tons of knowledge, the real learning takes place with you have to put it all together with your body and your brain… just do it.  This sounded like a multi-million commerical, was it really that simple?.

Simple to say, harder to do; I had to move over to the passenger’s seat, give up control, and encourage.  That’s all I needed to do…for success to happen.  Well, I did bite my tongue a few times and hold on to the door handle tightly, very tightly.  But, that feeling to look over, see my daughter so big, beautiful and confident behind the wheel was awesome.  Allowing someone to truly grow and become independent, it was so much about letting go of some power and control you possessed in your lives together.

Oh, my gosh, I thought to myself as the student-led conferences approached in our elementary school.  If I had done my job well as a teacher, my students would be able to lead their own conferences. It was just like being a parent and letting go of the steering wheel.  It was the day before the scheduled conferences and we had been out for snow too many days to count.  The students had their data binders full of evidence of learning, their goals, and they had just written persuasive letters to their families.  These letters contained at least three reasons why their families should attend and more importantly, bring them (the student) to the conference.  Families are still very traditional in our area, I grew up in that era;  childhood conferences consisted of parents attending alone without kids, listening to the teacher talk about the report card grades, parents going home and focusing with their child on that lowest grade!  It took some convincing at first for me to let go of the steering wheel at school, too. The conference is about the student, they should be there in some capacity.

My tradition every year before conferences consists of three questions.  I asked the students to close their eyes and raise their hand for yes/no anonymously.  First, I asked, ” Who thinks they can take over their own conference and I will be there for support and questions?”  Three students raised their hands, I smiled and quickly jotted down their names on my notepad.  “Whew,” I thought to myself, “o.k., at least there was three.” Next question, “Who will be able to come, but they prefer me to lead the conference and give support?”  Three students raised their hands.  Last question, “Who would like to do a 50/50 leadership arrangement for the conference, we will take turns leading and be there for each other for support?”  “OHHH,I thought to myself, as I counted seventeen hands.”  I felt like I was a huge success. This is what I had been working hard at…building confidence so they feel like they can drive the conference.  Seventeen was a good number, not just for the number of students, but for my very special daughter.  Thank you to my daughter for being patient as I moved over to the passenger’s seat for the past two years.  This comfortable spot has a beautiful view.


4 responses »

  1. I like that you compared the lines of the road to playing basketball and keeping the ball in bounds. Isn’t it amazing how much of our personal life aids us in teaching.

  2. I love the connections that you have made in this post, and you did it so seamlessly! I also have a 17 year-old daughter who drives me around, but I also have one who is about to turn 16–oh dear, here I go again!!! loved the line about remembering the first two trips and maybe the first 150, as well. So funny and SO true!

  3. You take children and teach them to be independent, it doesn’t matter if they live with you at home or at school. They are your kids, and you enrich their lives by letting them take the reins (sometimes 🙂 )

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