In my recent post the “Three ‘E’s”, I make the case that the true evolution of public education should track from teachers who ‘Entertain their students’, to teachers who ‘engage’ their students, and finally to teachers who ’empower’ their students.
The post generated some interesting questions:
1. What’s wrong with being an ‘entertaining/cool’ teacher?
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with being entertaining and having students label you as a ‘cool’ teacher. You can still be entertaining and cool when you make your class more ‘engaging’, only now, your students are doing more of the work and you are in the spotlight a little less.
Even in a classroom where students are ’empowered’, you can be entertaining and cool, only now your job becomes easier in some ways because the students “OWN” their own learning. You are there more as a guide and an expert resource. Kids who have taken ownership and responsibility for their own learning aren’t looking for you to entertain them as much because by they have taken their learning into their own hands.
In this scenario John Taylor Gatto describes the difference between “Schooling and Education”.
2. When we empower students can we trust them to decide what they need to learn? Can we trust them to choose how they want to learn?
Gatto makes the case for students developing self-knowledge. He believes it is the keystone of a successful life. Pay particular attention to the student who talks about learning being his own responsibility…”teachers just open the door…”
3. Can we trust students to be responsible?
We say we want to foster responsible students; but we give them little or no ‘real’ responsibility. Gatto calls homework a ‘phony responsibility”. Gatto’s students run a homeless kitchen on their Friday independent study days. They learn responsibility by taking on real responsibility. You can see the entire “Classrooms of the Heart” video here; but pay particular attention to the last 1:40 seconds.
Empowering students is a radical idea. There are lots of obstacles to doing it, including the kids themselves who would rather be told what to do and follow a well-known script. As long as we progress no further than entertainment and engagement; the ownership for the students education falls solely us. The kids are just along for the ride. When students are truly empowered, they feel responsible for their own learning. We are there as responsible adults and experienced educators to insure that their learning experience is the very best it can be; but we aren’t in this alone anymore. We are joined by our partners in learning…our students.