Monday, June 15

Slippery Slope from Helping to Enabling

At what point does helping become enabling?

I like to help. Most of the time. When it comes to help people manage their technology, especially when they're trying to set up for a presentation, I'm more than willing to try to help them troubleshoot.

There are times, however, I find myself "helping" colleagues and then wonder if just maybe they could have done whatever themselves or if I would have served them better by showing them what to do the next time. There are situations in which time is a factor and it is just easier to do it. There are other times it's clear the individual doesn't really want to know and I realize I'm just going to get called again, that I've contributed to a situation of learned helplessness and I've definitely crossed the line from helping to enabling. It's not even about being thanked when I help, or the occasional sense of entitlement from those asking for help, though I admit the latter is grating.

I did a little research on the difference and, sadly, almost all of the articles and examples are about various forms of addiction. But I gleaned enough to realize that when I do not allow or expect someone else to develop a capability they could easily have, then I've enabled them not to learn. Of course, as I just said, there are those who just don't want to learn. In those cases, I may have to take more drastic actions so as not to be expected to be at their technological beck and call.

Here's what's also interesting to me. Most of these folks are educators. It reminds me how rarely we see behaviors and attitudes in ourselves that we do not or cannot tolerate in others and certainly do not want to permit in our classrooms.

Educators are constantly fussing about students not taking ownership and responsibility of their learning. Yet, when a teacher asks for help for the same thing over and over again, that teacher is modeling a different behavior. Kids figure that out. Fast.

So I will continue to help when and where needed. I will, however, raise my expectations that those I'm helping will learn some of the fundamentals I've done repeatedly for them, or just go deaf when they call my name.

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