Bounded Flexibility


Freedom and flexibility often scare teachers. It’s the fear that freedom equals chaos.

WL Gore, the manufacturing company behind Gore-Tex, promotes the idea of bounded flexibility, freedom within constraints. They provide employees with flexibility in their roles as long as they are committed to making things better for everyone, and committed to improving the company. Employees use dabble time to explore projects that help move the company forward. (Check out the Work Life podcast exploring these concepts.)

Maybe the idea of freedom shouldn’t scare educators. If freedom is unbounded, it may not work. If we as teachers, however, provide limited flexibility, and model self regulation and self management, maybe the idea of bounded flexibility engages students like they haven’t been engaged before.

Exploring flexible seating options and asking students how they would set up the classroom to make it most comfortable for everyone allows kids to collaborate, plan, design, and execute.

Providing dabble time for students to experiment with different note taking methods might help students discover a skill they might not have known they had.

Letting students pick and choose during a Podcast Hour can help students learn and find something that they are passionate about.

It doesn’t have to be chaos. It doesn’t have to be scary.

It needs to respect students as individuals. It needs to be based off of a mutual trust that students will respect the boundaries along with accepting the freedom they are granted.

It also first needs to come with a healthy dose of self regulation and self management.

Start small. Teach and model. Provide flexibility within limits.




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