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When I gave my students the opportunity to take greater ownership of their own learning, with my role becoming more of a guide and advisor, they all were excited about the possibility.  They don't want to be left totally to their own devices, but they do want to have a greater say in how they learn the material before them.  Believe it or not, this actually creates more work for me:  I have four Advanced Placement classes, which will now in all likelihood be doing four very different things on any given day.  And yet, if I believe in empowering people -  and I do, which is one reason I choose to teach Government - it is perhaps the only way I can honestly approach teaching.

I approach what may be the end of my time in the secondary classroom.  That is empowering for me.  I am far more willing to trust my own instincts, to provide space for my students to express themselves, to push back against mandates and strictures, because I can walk out with my pension any time I want.  

I have no idea what will happen when any class shows up.  That is far from being within my control.   And that makes teaching that much more exciting.

Should not our politics and our governance be similarly empowering our citizenry?  Or have we abandoned what it means to be a small d democracy, and in the process lost sight of the ideal of res publica?   I wonder.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 03:56 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  so it's not much of a diary (6+ / 0-)

    I am thinking aloud.  Perhaps I should keep my thoughts to myself?

    Except I do appreciate feedback, so that I do not get trapped in my own thinking patterns.

    Do with this what you will.


    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 03:56:34 AM PST

  •  It is a good thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Mostel26, palantir

    you are so dynamite. Ending a career like teaching doesn't hit you till the time everyone rolls outta bed grumbling about teenagers and hits the roads with their coffee mug, and you are up in your jammies with a second cup of coffee quietly saying "wtf, am I going to do today" under your breathe.
    You do stuff to needs to be done, but gawd! you miss people badly.
    Nuthing you can do about it. Life rolls on and you do other stuff, other than ..... "Ok class, blah blah blah....."
    I know the "limbo" of the teacher without a class.  It is also such a consuming job, you are either in it or not.

    "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

    by TexMex on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 04:38:48 AM PST

    •  dynamic is what I meant to say. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, palantir

      it will be those damn brats you will miss.

      "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

      by TexMex on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 04:39:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  not near my end, but aware of it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Being 35, I'm nowhere near my retirement (10 down 20-25 left), but I always wonder what I'll do when my time is done. I'm blessed to be able to get paid all summer to instruct a fishing camp at a summer camp, but I don't know how many more summers I'll do that. Plus suburban Philadelphia doesn't offer easy fishing 365 days a year. I know I'm a Philly-region lifer, so moving is out. I just became involved in a training to lead work crews on a regional network of nature preserves, so that might take up some time.

      The end of that ramble, gets me to the idea that I'll not be working with teens on a daily basis once I retire. I don't like that idea. I don't know if I'd like being at a school part time as a substitute, but being the working fool I'm not sure that being a volunteer tutor or something like that would be of interest. least we're protected pension-wise in PA by our state constitution. And we sort-of protected the new folks in the last round of legislative attack on those pensions last year. I feel fortunate and blessed that aspect of my life.

  •  Hm. When I Teach Sailing I'm Comfortable Giving (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    students, even first time landlubbers, great latitude to learn on their own, and just setting boundaries or general themes for learning.

    The rationale in this is that it's a heavily perception-dominated skill set, and so different people will advance the fastest by responding to their evolving perceptions.

    But when I teach the mechanics of playing complex instrumental music, the students' natural inclinations about how to proceed are almost always inefficient if not completely wrong, based on centuries of evolving understanding of how best to use the anatomy both for short term results and long term preservation of skill and body health (overuse syndromes etc.).

    I have to think that there must be important limits on allowing learners to chart their courses through bodies of intellectual material.

    Should our politics empower our citizens? Well I don't know where we can find any that aren't immersed in brainwashing. I'll get back to you if I run across a cross section of demographics who can be trusted not to be tools of the 1%.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 05:37:23 AM PST

  •  I do this at times (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My World History students (9th grade) are given control of their own learning for our final unit of study.  For our unit on African History/Culture the students receive a topic list broken into 4 sections (ancient kingdoms, Euro Imperialism, Nationalism/Ind, Modern Africa) and they complete a contract indicating what type of work they will produce to demonstrate knowledge of the topic. I get an amazing variety of work (or some non-work........LOVE the 9th grades some times!) over the four weeks the students take to complete their projects.

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