4 Comments

  1. Thanks George.
    There is a real difference between being empowered and feeling empowered. A school leader could have great faith in their staff, provide them meaningful opportunities to direct the school improvement plan and give them autonomy to shape their own learning. But, if that staff doesn’t feel empowered, are they? Empowerment, like so many other feelings is up to the person doing the feeling to decide whether they or not they feel it.
    A staff whose leader would gladly have them demonstrate initiative but never communicates that to them is left disenfranchised. A staff who believe they are empowered but don’t have any real self-determination is delusional. If a staff has both real and perceived empowerment, there is still one more hurdle. Action! All this empowerment doesn’t mean much if it is unused.
    My current thinking around the difference between engagement and empowerment is in who’s ideas you are asking people to think about and act upon. Is it our ideas (engagement) or their ideas (empowerment)?
    Our role is to generate learning momentum so when students (and staff) leave our classrooms at the end of the day, our schools at the end of the year, and districts at the end of grade 12, they carry on learning.

  2. Hey Pal,

    You know how I feel about empowering, right?!

    For me, it works like this: I want EVERY kid to leave my classroom recognizing that they CAN make change in the world around them. I want them to see that they aren’t passive participants — in school or in their communities. And I believe that I’ve failed if they don’t recognize that they can (and should) be influential.

    I don’t think those messages are shared all that often in traditional schools. We are too busy trying to teach a predetermined curriculum in a predetermined way to create active learning spaces that leave students “stronger and more confident.”

    The result is frightening: Our classrooms are full of kids who don’t see that they have a voice and ideas and thoughts and influence that matters, too. They sit waiting for the next lesson on the next topic — and for the teacher to tell them what they do/don’t know. Choice — and the responsibility that comes with that choice — is nonexistent. Heck, it’s not even an expectation anymore. Choice would surprise — even paralyze — students used to highly directive environments.

    Is there some truth that adults in the workplace should “seize power” or “empower themselves?”

    Sure.

    But if the kids in our classrooms don’t ever see chances for self direction and ownership over their own learning and growth, why would we ever believe that they are going to suddenly change those patterns of interaction with authority after leaving our schools?

    Dug thinking with you this morning. Hope you are well and happy!

    Rock on,
    Bill

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