Sunday, February 23, 2014

Stop being a "facilitator" and start being a partner: something I didn't know about encouraging student voice.

If you have met me and we have talked, you know that I am an advocate of encouraging student voice in the classroom. I talk about it to a lot of different people, and, fortunately, that affords me a wealth of opinion and feedback. I was talking to my teammate about how I was encouraging student voice in this particular project.

And she says, "Dane, you know there are times you just have to tell the kids what you want. Sometimes they need to have concrete requirements. I would never give them a wide open assignment this week."

(This is when I was like, "well listen HERE now!")

"We had Iowa Assessments last week, a snow day on Monday and another blizzard coming Thursday."

(This happened Tuesday)

"At times like these you may just have to help them through it."

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Students can't just have a voice in how they learn something, they need a voice in who helps. I have been sitting back in my classroom watching the kids work thinking I was a facilitator. What I need to be doing is helping the kids who have a need for more teacher direction.

So, I went to a lesson we had already started and changed it around a little bit. I provided a listing of what I wanted them to look at and provided a general construct for what their proof of learning needed to be. The next class period I said to the kids:

"Okay, guys you know I'm always learning and sometimes I don't know what I'm doing, right?"

To which they replied in a most begrudgingly and annoyed manner. "Yes...."

I say," You know you have student voice and choice in this room, but I didn't realize something. For some of you, you need a little more direction and some more concrete targets. That is the best way for your voice to be heard. I didn't realize that. So, I'm adding instructions for those of you who need it. For those of you who are comfortable with less direction, here are less directed instructions. And, don't forget, if you have an idea that is maybe in the middle; run it past me." 

To which one of my students threw up his arms and said, "Thank you!"

He wasn't being disrespectful, he was just showing me that the need for students to be in control of how much teacher involvement was valid.

So, this week's goal: Stop being a "facilitator" and start being a partner.

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