These two chapters focus on empowering students and what tactics schools and districts can utilize to bring all voices to design empowering opportunities for everyone.
George begins by sharing his focus on engaging students during his first few years of teaching.This was very relatable to me. Knowing that social studies is generally the subject students hate the most, I made it a personal mission to create learning experiences for my students that were filled with passion, energy, and excitement. I was exhausted at the end of every day having expended so much energy helping students learn about why the debate over the Constitution was so meaningful. While I believe that I made learning fun for my students – and they were able to make connections to the world around them – I’m not certain I created empowered learners who found problems and solved them, who questioned in a respectful way, who shared their voices. On page 96, George quotes Bill Ferriter: “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula. [Empowering students] means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.” This really gave me pause. Have I been created engaged learners or empowered learners?
The common thread between these two chapters is the idea of compliance. So often we teach students how to be compliant – follow the rules, do what’s asked of them, not to question. While some routines and procedures are necessary, especially in a lower elementary school classroom, we have to be mindful of what we are asking our students to do. If we want them to have a voice – to feel empowered – we cannot squelch every independent thought or action. Chapter 7 focuses on designing a mission and vision for schools and George uses the example of his school district and how they attempted to get input from all learners in their school community – students, teachers, parents, administration. By teaching students to be compliant, we are teaching them that their voices don’t matter. Conversely, by bringing them in to the conversation to design what’s most important to a school (its mission and vision), students are far more likely to be engaged and committed to what the school is trying to do.
What do you think? Are schools teaching students to be compliant? Why do you feel this way?
Questions for Discussion (Chapter 6)
- How do we create learning opportunities and experiences for students and staff that focus on empowerment as opposed to engagement?
- What new statements would you create with the “School vs. Learning” image? Are they on one side of the spectrum, or are these statements closer to the middle?
- How do we create classrooms and schools where students and voices are not only heard but needed?
Questions for Discussion (Chapter 7)
- How do you involve the greater community into creating an inspiring vision for learning in your school or organization?
- Does your vision (individually and organizationally) reflect the powerful learning opportunities that are available today? Is it compelling and empowering to educators?
- What are the small steps along the way that you will need to make the vision a reality?