Giving Students a Voice Models High-Quality Learning Processes
Yvette Jackson's discourse on Pedagogy of Confidence at Learning Forward's Summer Conference was enlightening in its focus to give students voice in their own education. This is a particularly hard thing to do for many teachers because it means that they have to confront reality and sometimes reality can be decidedly uncomfortable.
In essence, giving students voice in their own learning is allowing them to express their views, opinions, and thoughts on how they feel they should be taught. If we truly believe in making our classrooms student-centered, led and directed by students, then we need to give them that voice.
The preferred method of teaching for many teachers is that the students listen and do as the instructor says. Students can only ask questions after the teacher has finished with the lecture. "This has been the way I have always taught," many say.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, then it is time to confront reality and look at how you are teaching. Honestly ask yourself, "What kind of teacher am I? Am I the kind of teacher that just goes with the flow and follows a scripted scope and sequence, or do I use it as a guide and let my creativity take the lead? Do I use real-world situations and have them become part of my lesson, or do I just close the door to expanding my student's horizons beyond my classroom?" These are just some examples that we can use to think about the type of teacher we are. Jot down some other responses, then take some time to think about what you have written. Where do you stand? Are you in the group that follows the norm or the creative leader that sets higher levels of learning with that creativity?
Given the fact that most of us have been instructed to teach our students to "Pass the test" we find that we unwittingly become the type of teacher that just teaches to the test. However, we can use those creative ideas and still help our students successfully pass.
We need to understand that in order for our students to actually become better learners we need to change our own mindset. The word change can bring fear, stress, and anxiety to many in the teaching community. If you look at it from a different perspective, though, change is a good thing. Change brings you out of your comfort zone; it makes you open your eyes to new ideas on how to teach; it gives you options on being creative in order to get your students to become actively involved in their own learning. Change wakes up the dormant teacher that used to be so passionate about teaching but lost sight of the reason we are teachers, to teach children.
Many teachers suffer from a common disease known in educational settings as "apathy." The definition for apathy is simply, I don't care anymore, and I'm just going to keep doing it the same old way. This is a common disease found among teachers who have been in the profession way too long and in teachers who have burned out in their first five years of teaching. In other instances, teachers who are mediocre suffer from this malaise as well. They just do enough to get by in order to keep their jobs and really do an injustice to the students that they don't serve.
Our own learning as educators never stops. Like our students, we learn something new every day. By giving students a voice, we as educators will become students in our own classrooms and model to our students that we are learning in the process as well.
Teacher, East Point Elementary