In my work as a reading tutor, I learned a strategy called GRR or Gradual Release of Responsibility. Basically, with GRR the tutor or teacher gradually releases the responsibility of the student’s learning from teacher-led to student-led. In my job as a reading tutor, I might begin helping an emergent or struggling reader by reading aloud to her. Then, we might ‘echo’ read, which is me reading and the child reading along immediately after me. It would progress from there with the student slowly taking on more responsibility for the reading until she is reading on her own. First it might be one sentence, then one page, then an entire chapter. There are, of course, many permutations to this, as many ways of doing it as their are teachers and learners!
The goal is to allow the reader to learn and adapt slowly with steps along the way. Once she is ready, then she can go off on her own.
As a parent, I’ve learned that there is another Gradual Release–of Worry. The little steps of freedom and independence that your child takes as she is released into the adult world causes worry to most parents. As the child learns and grows and accomplishes tasks without harm, the parent can release some of the worry. Like learners, kids and parents do this at their own pace.
When my son was a little boy he played with a girl who lived down the street. At first, they were too young to walk to each other’s houses on their own. They had to cross one street that, while not major, was busy enough to need adult supervision. As they grew older we’d walk them to one side of the busy street and then watch while they crossed and continued on. Then we’d watch as they’d walk the entire way to the other’s house. Eventually, we released them to travel back and forth without supervision at all. It was a “bye mom!” and off he’d go.
At first, I’d worry when he left the house, when I couldn’t see whether he made it safely or not, but eventually, I stopped worrying. I had ‘released’ the worry.
The same happened the first time he went somewhere with a friend who drove. I waited nervously until he came home. Soon that became common and I stopped worrying. Then came the Driver’s License. Every time he left the house to drive somewhere I worried until I heard him pull up, safe and sound, in the car. After a while, the worry moved to only when he was out driving at night and you can bet I stayed up until he walked in the door. Now…I go to sleep and don’t even hear him come home. Another layer of worry released.
Each step my child has taken on the road to independence, responsibility, and adulthood has had a corresponding step for me to worry and then to release that worry. You’d think that with each step that ended successfully that I’d not worry when the next step came along. Unfortunately, it did not work that way. Each step got progressively more dangerous! Walking down the sidewalk on our relatively quiet street turned into driving late at night. The consequences were more severe and so the worry returned each time.
I’m coming to the end of the worry. I’ve released a lot of it…gradually. But it will always still be there. He is, after all, my child.