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Jeff

I really like this idea, but it's hard to imagine what a school that really and truly empowers students would look like. As teachers, a lot of what we do on a daily basis comes from the idea that we think we know what is best for the students. How much of that control are teachers willing to give back to the students, and how would we react when we don't like the direction they head off in. I think it would take a really big change in how a school functions to truly make this work.

preilly

Jeff...Yes, a tremendous shift. It's been done successfully in a number of schools. I will be posting more examples of this in the next few weeks. John Taylor Gatto is one of the key public school pioneers.

Here is a link to a private school (Youth Initiative HS) to check out:

https://www.yihs.net/

pete

tft

Ever heard of "magician's choice"? It's how a magician gets you to chose whatever the magician wants you to choose. I think this is how I would implement your notion of empowerment.

And your idea to have the students decide the pedagogical method is not so pedagogically sound.

And why would you not want the cool teacher to remain cool and productive? Do you really think that the lucky kids who get that teacher want the teacher to become a drone? Oy vey!

You principals need to leave the good teachers alone, even if we threaten you with practices that work, but have yet to be researched, and deemed, therefore, good for kids.

preilly

Interesting how you assumed that I was speaking against having teachers that are "entertaining". I believe that a 'cool' and successful teacher continues to be one...even when the students are engaged and empowered. So, there is no disagreement there.

I'm not too familiar with the "magician's choice" but I don't think 'deception' is the same thing as empowerment. When we allow others to have some say in things that are important to their lives, we are showing a certain amount of respect for them. Deceiving them does not.

Obviously, I don't agree that letting kids have input into how they learn a topic is pedagogically unsound.

Finally, I am not a principal, I am not threatened by successful teachers, and I will not accept a status quo where:

35%-40% of our students never graduate from HS, (in some cities the dropout rate is close to 70%);

and where 50% of new teachers leave the profession by their 5th year of teaching.

We can do better.

pete

tft

I only assumed you were speaking against having cool teachers because you mentioned it in your opening. Indeed, you said, "The problem that I see with both of these strategies..." which indicates to me you see a problem. I am glad you clarified your position, and that we share the notion that a cool, entertaining teacher is not a problem.

I speak from the position of and elementary school teacher, so the empowerment thing may have just missed, or should I say, passed me by. I suppose with older students, giving them some say in what and how they learn could be a good thing, if they choose the standards and the standards-based curriculum their school or district has been sanctioned to use due to NCLB. Otherwise, how do you implement such a strategy?

Gilbert Halcrow

@pete

I really like the evolution you suggest moving from Entertaining to Engaging to Empowering educators. I think you diminish the ‘Entertaining’ by referring to it as the ‘cool’ teachers, because to me ‘cool’ teachers are often the sort of teacher who runs foul of seeking their students’ approval – perhaps it is just terminology. Still you concepts stands very well.

Have you considered the teachers that have not evolved to even Entertaining, perhaps just plain old ‘Enduring’?

My experience with introducing drama strategies and learning technologies into the curriculum would suggest that the Entertaining teacher will quickly evolve into the Empowering teacher given the right resources and training. But there is a huge gulf between the Enduring and the Entertaining?

By virtue of being ‘Entertaining’ those teaches at the very basic level are acknowledging their students as an audience that could choose to disengage, so in a performance sense there is a collaborative agreement – ‘I’ll sit and listen as long as you entertain me?’.

The Enduring teacher I see as a ‘Larson Far side’ comic strip; A Victorian style mortar board and gowned master stands at the front of the class going ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ ageless as a centaury passes and his students turn into skeletons. Their belief is that 'the students come to me to learn, what I have to tell.If they do not engage then it is their own fault'

Your model suggests moving from passive consumption to active creation and it is vital that we develop our educators to engage with those phases as lecturer, modeller and facilitator. My anxiety rest not in your model, but that it is dealing with the top end of practitioners. There is a long way for many teachers and school leaders to go before they reach the states you are discussing.

@tft
It worries me when you say that as an elementary teacher the whole ‘empowerment’ thing passed you by? As soon as a child can recognise the Golden Arches or Barney they can make good or bad choices. They need to be empowered to make those choices wisely – empowerment is not the same as ‘student voice’.

Because of the nature of primary school learning being more holistic and experientially based, I have seen more student choice and empowerment in primary schools than I have ever witness in the exam driven cultures of secondary education – so I do not quite get what you mean?


tft

I mean, how can kids decide what is taught? We have state mandated curricula, and we need to teach it.

I agree that making kids a part of--as much as you can make them a part of anything--the process is good. But there seem to be limitations that the article doesn't acknowledge that would make the notion of empowerment convoluted, difficult, and a delicate balance. That is where the notion of magician's choice comes in. We often try to lead a student to the end result (knowledge), and we do that in a way that can be considered US getting THEM to THERE; magician's choice, not manipulation and deception, as the author implied I meant.

I think my notion of empowerment and the notion the previous poster and the author share are different. Or, I do it already, and don't recognize it as empowerment, I call it honesty and expectation sharing.

preilly

All,
Great comments.

How about having kids involved with curriculum committees, technology committees, holding a school board seat?

How about letting them give input into lunch menus and other aspect of school life?

Not control...but input.

In the classroom they might not have a choice about whether they are going to learn a particular science standard, or computational skill; but could they have input into the method they use to learn it?

For example, I might want to do an independent study project on the science concept that I am asked to learn.

I might be the kind of learner that would like to hear a good lecture about the concept.

It might be that I choose to work with a group on a hands on lab or project to learn the concept.

By looking for every possible place where we can give kids input, responsibility, and choice regarding their school and their learning...we build student ownership of their own education.

There are some great examples of this process working in some really tough schools.

pete

preilly

All,
Great comments.

How about having kids involved with curriculum committees, technology committees, holding a school board seat?

How about letting them give input into lunch menus and other aspect of school life?

Not control...but input.

In the classroom they might not have a choice about whether they are going to learn a particular science standard, or computational skill; but could they have input into the method they use to learn it?

For example, I might want to do an independent study project on the science concept that I am asked to learn.

I might be the kind of learner that would like to hear a good lecture about the concept.

It might be that I choose to work with a group on a hands on lab or project to learn the concept.

By looking for every possible place where we can give kids input, responsibility, and choice regarding their school and their learning...we build student ownership of their own education.

There are some great examples of this process working in some really tough schools.

pete

Carolyn Foote

Pete,

I really like the way you delineated these approaches.

I'd been really pondering this with a group of teachers on our campus who are starting a professional learning group--I ran across an interesting chapter in the book The Passionate Learner which I blogged more about--regarding students and curriculum.

It relates well to the questions you are asking here. Looking forward to seeing your examples of this in practice.

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