A teacher friend whom I look up to posted are article on coaching teachers (Chad's Blog--Learning is Messy). In that post, he look at what one researcher states are the needs of adult learners. That list is posted below but with a little Chad-twist...he's replaced 'adult' with 'student'.
- Students want to be the origin of their learning and want control over the what, who, how, why, and where of their learning.
- Students will commit to learning when they believe the objectives are realistic and important for their personal and professional needs.
- Students need to see that what they are learning is applicable to their day to day activities and problems.
- Students need to see very clearly the relevance of what they’re being asked to learn.
- Students need to have some say in what they’re doing.
- Students need direct, concrete ways to apply what they have learned to their work.
- Students (like adults) need to feel emotionally safe in order to be able to learn.
Its their education. Our job is as a cheerleader and coach and placeholder for them as they figure out how to be their own learners. When we take over for them (either as a parent or teacher) we deny them a chance to guide themselves into maturity. When we as teachers look for the lowest common denominator as the standard to teach toward, we inadvertently say to our charges that mediocrity is the same thing as success. My concern is that our fear that students experience anything other than success places them in a situation that we impair their ultimate ability to be successful.
Thought experiment: How many of us as adults look back at the events in our lives which made us stronger, smarter, more mature and better people and see events in which we were only marginally involved? We were sitting in a chair listening passively and shazookum... it happened. The magic eight ball says 'the odds are low'.
I won't speak for anyone else but I've had to work hard to be a better student, better teacher, better dad and husband, ... insert whatever role you'd like there. I've been forced to confront ideas and realities I thought were beyond my comprehension; to do things I was sure were beyond my abilities. Sometimes, in response to those challenges, I succeeded and learned I was more than I thought I was. Often I didn't succeed and I learned that taking that leap didn't kill me. Mistakes are the best lesson plans. There is a great line from a song,
Each game of chess means there's one less/
Variation left to be played
Each day got through means one or two/
Less mistakes remain to be made."
I didn't do it alone; supportive adults abounded in my life. They challenged and encouraged and pissed me off on more than one occasion--they pushed me to learning at more than just a baby step pace. They expected more out of me than I did myself until I was ready to.
Why do we deny that to our students?