Letting the students take the stage
Where was the teacher? How did she help the children get to that place? Who took the applause? How did the children feel? What touched you when you watched the performance? Why?
What did this teacher do right?
“The guide at the side, not the sage on the stage….” (Quote source)
Teachers are no longer the founts of all knowledge. There has been a paradigm shift in the world of education. How has the teacher’s role changed and what has become a major priority? I’d like to address the latter with this short blog.
“It’s not about your teaching – it’s about their learning” (a mentor in a post-lesson feedback session)
Responsibility, not tyranny!
With more and more emphasis being placed on autonomous learning, teachers need to encourage learners to become independent of time, location and……. teachers. However, that doesn’t mean teachers are superfluous or obsolete. It boils down to being clear about roles and levels of responsibility. Who is responsible for what when it comes down to organizing and managing learning?
As soon as teachers take on a little responsibility, they send out a signal. In a heart beat, clever learners recognize how a teacher distributes responsibility. It’s easy for a teacher to become saddled with responsibility which, by default, should belong to learners – e.g. researching, gathering information, organizing and looking after material, organizing themselves into groups, managing tasks, creating products, presenting information, discussion, assessing, reflecting …..and even teaching…
Who is passive? Who is active? Simple questions. Get them right and students will be engaged. Get them wrong, and you will be engaged. Is it our aim to be active, or is it our aim to get students active? Students need to do the heavy lifting, not us. We are there to assist and support if the weights are too heavy, or to check if they are heavy enough.
So what do good teachers do?
Here’s a good teacher – a role model, motivator and a believer in success!
Apart from …..inspiring students to be better, sharing joy, being likeable and exuding hope, the teacher’s prime responsibility is, surely,to do everything to encourage circumstances and environments in which learners can get a sense of purpose and direction, acquire and use knowledge and develop individual skills in ways which :
- offer the right degree of challenge,
- tap into innate passion/s and talents,
- are affective (amygdala-friendly)
- are personally meaningful and goal-oriented,
- offer opportunities for them to build relationships through collaborative tasks
- encourage deliberate practice
- give choice,
- result in tangible evidence of learning and success
- help them become independent of timetables, classrooms and mentors
However, you don’t throw a non-swimmer into a stream and yell : “Swim! I give your freedom!”
All of this needs to be done carefully. It takes time. Learners need scaffolding. Some more than others. Some learners are keen to be independent immediately. Others need more guidance and opportunities to get it wrong, learn from mistakes and then improve. It’s the teacher’s task to recognize what makes sense to which learner at which time in their development. Then adjust and adapt accordingly.
Occasionally, too, teachers might actually take to the stage, give input, provide impulses, create and give captivating lessons, entertain and deliver erudite speeches. Occasionally…
Thrift, not theft
By hogging the responsibility for students’ learning, we are robbing them of the chance to develop competences which will prove invaluable in future careers. Does the boss do the leg work? Seldom.
Teachers, be thrifty in your advice giving, lectures and entertaining. Do not fill the vacuum. Let them. Let students take the stage. You can be in the wings if they forget their lines….Remember, they are the stars, so let them shine.
Ways to promote independence:
- virtual classrooms and LMS – I can strongly recommend Edmodo (independence of time and location + forum for interaction, exchange of content/information)
- flipped classrooms
- online resources like sofatutor – video tutorials, screencasts, etc.
- I strongly recommend Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos
- E-portfolios (getting students to showcase their work, take ownership of their learning and feel pride in their achievements)
- being quiet and letting the students do stuff!
“Hey, teacher – Leave them kids alone!” (Pink Floyd)
I am a mentor at the SBW Talent Campus Bodensee.