Student Teacher School days – Teacher Managing or Student Leading?

It strikes me that students often live in a world that is akin to your boss walking by you saying, “Theresa, what are you doing right now?”

Then two seconds later:
“When you are done with that, I need you to finish this. Contact this person. Deliver this. Brainstorm that. Make sure x is on my desk by 5. Don’t forget you’re late with z, so if you can’t get that to me by the end of the week, it will be too late to matter.”

This reality was driven home to me this week when I had the opportunity to follow a student for a day. The kid I followed – we’ll call him Tray – went from class to class all day having teachers ask this, that, and the other of him. It struck me that teachers do a lot of management. They take the state standards and then come up with deliverables showing them that Tray has met the state standard. Then one by one they give Tray those deliverables and tell him how they should be done and by when, so that class after class, assignment after assignment Tray goes through his day.

I noticed that, though not obvious one class at a time, over the course of the whole day Tray is not doing much thinking for himself. His education is managed for him; he’s not entrusted with any of the responsibility for it except what is immediately in front of him. And he’s just been spoon-fed the answers.

In an institution that is about learning, Tray is hardly thinking. We (the teachers) want students to understand concepts like leadership, but most of what is modeled for them by us is management, sometimes micro-management.

Tray doesn’t like school, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Living in his life for a day made me feel like a paper pusher, handing back assignment after assignment. There is no feeling of ownership of the work he submitted. It was just something he had to do because someone else wanted it done. So how do we change this? How do we get students invested in their own education? And I don’t mean on a nebulous level but rather giving students opportunities to lead parts of their own education and not merely have it managed for them.

Why not have Tray do part of the thinking? Why not have him create ways to show his grasp of a standard?


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