I received a question/comment recently about the concern that as classrooms and schools consider why change is essential and what change is necessary, that educators are concerned that their expertise will no longer be valued. For me, the teacher in the classroom is and will always be the expert. The shift is not about devaluing the knowledge of the teacher as that will always be crucial and paramount to education. It is about valuing the wisdom and experience of our students
From “Innovate Inside the Box“:
In our classrooms, we have to be comfortable with the fact that we don’t know everything. Admitting that reality and still being willing to learn, especially from your students, doesn’t mean you aren’t an expert in your classroom. It just acknowledges that our students bring gifts to the classroom. We can learn from them, a fact that, in and of itself, sometimes pushes our students to want to learn more. As someone who taught technology to all grade levels in my career, there is no way that I could know everything because technology changes so quickly. What you know about technology one day can change significantly with a simple “update.” Because I knew it was impossible to know it all, sometimes I would ask my students, “Does anyone know how to _____?” Tapping into their knowledge was a way to save time and showcase their expertise. If a student knew a quick strategy that could save me time, why would I not learn from her? Sometimes students would know and help immediately, and sometimes students would see my question as a challenge to learn something quickly so they could show me how to do it. The intoxicating thrill of teaching the teacher empowers students and equips them with the ability to “figure it out” long after our time with them.
The classroom as a whole is always way smarter than the teacher as an individual. We need to be able to tap into the wisdom of our students to make us better now and to help them become better learners in the future. When we unleash the genius of the “whole” in our classrooms, there is no limit to what we can learn together.
When we not only embrace the opportunity to learn with and for our students, but also from them, it opens doors for everyone in our schools, including the adults. The expertise of an educator should never be devalued but empowering our students to share their gifts in the classroom brings out the best in all of us now and in the future.