Letting go of control in your classroom is difficult.
As teachers, we sometimes have a hard time letting go of control. As we consider management issues, keeping everyone engaged, and the constant pressures of pacing guides and state testing, the easiest solution seems to be for us to take control in any and every way possible. This often leads to the development of many teacher-centered classrooms. These are classrooms that are planned, controlled, and paced around the teacher, not the students.
You Might Be Surprised.
Although it can feel counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to increase accountability, ownership, and success of students is to let them lead. Anytime you can make changes in your classroom to provide opportunities for your students to lead is a step in the right direction. When students feel that ownership, they’ll work harder for you. When you provide them with what they need, when they need it, they’ll be more engaged. And when you stop, listen, and adjust based on what does and does not work for them, they’ll be much more likely to succeed.
So how do we let students lead? Here are just a few ways you can let your students lead in your classroom.
Let them set the pace.
Pace is one of easiest ways to increase student leadership and accountability in your classroom. It is a single variable that can help solve problems for students who are bored and need challenged or lost and falling behind. By using pace as an intervention for ALL learners, you’ll provide them the opportunity to better take control of their own learning. This DOES NOT mean that they will be teaching themselves. Rather, it will allow for more one-on-one interaction with your learners.
Let them help create the environment in your classroom.
I realize that there are some rules that are non-negotiable, but many times I see the best intended rules ignored by students because they have had no say in the reasons behind them. At the beginning of the year, have some conversations with your students about the classroom they want to create. You can then develop systems, routines, and rules to help create this environment. Classrooms shouldn’t be a place to fear, but a place students want to be.
Build trust with them.
Trusting your students and building their trust in you is the first step to letting them lead. Letting go can be difficult, but if you inherently believe and trust that they want to learn, you can drastically improve both your relationship with them as well as how hard they will work for you. Trust and respect are both earned. When classrooms embody this concept, and your students can trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you believe they want to do the right thing, most of the time they will.
Let them lead and see what happens.
Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran teacher, it is a huge step to give up some power and let your students lead. Once you give them the chance though, they may surprise you. Giving them the opportunity to lead your classroom will empower, excite, and encourage them to become the amazing learners you know they are. You know they can accomplish amazing things, why not let them lead the way and show you?