The last two years I have had the awesome privilege of teaching Advanced Placement Language and Composition. I’ve taught seniors before, but it’s been a few years. I love watching them “become”.
At this age, they are figuring out where and how they’re going to start their independent lives. They are grappling with beliefs and morals and “adulting” all while still [secretly] wanting to be kids.
A very wise mentor teacher once gave me some sage advice. She said that in my career, I will have students who are smarter than me. And the way I respond to that will be crucial. She went on to say that it’s OKAY for them to be smarter than me, and if I’m OKAY with it, the experience will be amazing.
In my 18 years, I HAVE had students who are smarter than me. It’s a beautiful process, learning side by side. Me, with my years of experience and schooling, them with their budding intellect. One of the best lessons I’ve learned is power sharing in the classroom – not being intimidated by my students or taking what they say or do personally. There’s a lot of freedom in that.
Last year, I saw a couple of my students eagerly want to lead discussions (and even the class) on many occasions. They begged for “just five minutes” to explain theories of the universe or the “flat earth”>
Seniors are tired of being the “object” of learning and they want to lead it – they want to be more than participants, they want to be the teachers. And I would venture to say it is not just seniors who want this.
All students want to be INVOLVED in their learning. They want to be the captains of their own fates. I am just the good ol’ “matey”, helping them navigate their way around this world, regaling them with my experience and lending them a hand on their journeys. I impart some of my knowledge, and they, in turn, impart theirs.
So I implemented something in my classroom called MY WEEK. From Monday until Friday of every week, my seniors started the class each day. On Monday, they took 5 minutes to discuss a quote or motivational moment, on Tuesday, they gave a summary of a TED talk; on Wednesday/Thursday (we are on a block schedule), it was Show and Tell – time for seniors to talk about their future plans and brag about their accomplishments; on Friday, they lead a current events discussion with their classmates. But the point is, THEY start the class every day, NOT ME.
Giving ownership in learning pulls me away from a teacher-centric classroom and also gives real life relevancy to the room. Real life preparation of real life skills.
Students prepare a Google Slides presentation using a template I give them. They have 5- 10 minutes at the beginning of each class to use – and the way they share the information is up to them. It gives them autonomy, voice, and helps them acclimate to an environment not unlike many college seminar classrooms.
When I presented the idea to my seniors, they jumped at it right away. One of my students showed a little hesitation.
“I love it. It makes me really nervous, but I know it’s good for me.”
And after one and a half years of doing these presentations, I’ve made some changes and am tweaking it a little for this semester. BUT, I am still confident in the idea that OWNERSHIP and EMPOWERMENT produces ENGAGEMENT. And it’s not just for seniors. It’s for everyone. I’ve experimented with doing this one day a week with another class – and even though IT IS NOT GRADED, students ASK to participate.
I’m big when it comes to sharing, so feel free to share this idea with your teacher friends, homeschool friends, or just friends who like creating presentations. Let’s EMPOWER a generation of young people. I always tell them, “I love you too much to leave you the same” – and this is just another way to encourage them in the learning process.
If you’d like to check out the presentation, click here.
If you’d like to purchase an editable version of the presentation above so you can use it with your OWN students, go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.