Empower |emˈpou(-ə)r| Lesson verb-give (someone) the authority or power to do something, make (someone) stronger and more confident.
have a group of students that are my tech team. They have taken on many roles in our 1:1 iPad initiative and I have watched a progression since the start of the year. When we first started I had my hand in every aspect making sure that everything was done “right”. Giving every student an iPad is a massive undertaking. I wanted everything to go right, so I took control. I handled every aspect and made sure that nothing could go wrong. I quickly learned that no man is an island and that I couldn’t do everything. I was being pulled in every direction.
More importantly, it goes against everything that I believe as a teacher. My role is to educate, guide and empower my students; not dictate. I needed to take a different approach, to shift responsibility and ownership to my teachers and students. (I also wanted to keep my sanity.)
I used a gradual release of responsibility; the “I do”, “We do”, “You do” method to build the skills and confidence. My tech crew and I created a set of tutorials to help students and teachers. The first couple I planned, shot and edited the whole tutorials. I took on the role of writer, director and editor. The next couple I involved the tech team in the whole process, giving them more responsibilities each time. My role shifted to director, overseeing the process and let them handle the writing and directing.
Then there comes a point where you have to give up control and trust that the lessons taught and experience gathered will be sufficient. Today was a big step in that process. I challenged my team to undertake one of our storytelling challenges. In the past I have taken a bigger role in these video productions but with this challenge I stepped back and only consulted with them, I was the executive producer. I watched them face challenges and make mistakes while figuring it out on their own. They had some audio and lighting issues and had to retake some of the shots. I sat back and watched them figure out how they wanted to shoot and edit it. I only stepped in and gave a tip or suggestion here and there (I couldn’t help myself).
I am excited to see where they’re going. I am so proud of them and I think, no, I know that they are going to keep amazing me this year. I am going to be very sad at the end of the year when these 8th graders move on. My challenge (and theirs) is to cultivate some younger students to fill their big shoes when they graduate.
Education is about empowering our students to be strong and confident. Sometimes our students struggle and F.A.I.L. (First Attempt in Learning) and that’s where our challenge starts. As teachers we need to know when and how to let our students struggle and when to step in before frustration and loss of confidence. That is a fine line we walk and when it works it’s amazing.
I have learned as much as I have taught. Now that’s empowerment!