Are We Teaching Students To Be Responsible…Or Just Obedient?


simple truth:

A great teacher’simpact lasts long after studentsleave the classroom.

research tells us:

We all want a well-run classroom. Teachers appreciate smooth transitions, active and appropriate student interaction, and learners who are focused on theiracademic activities. This seems great in theory, doesn’t it?

We know that on many days, this may not beour reality. Disruptions can be a constant. Student behaviors can vary morning to afternoon or even subject to subject. As teachers,we make a philosophicaldecision, conscious or not, on how toapproach students in our classrooms. We can focus our time teaching students to be responsible, or we spend our year reinforcing them to just be obedient.

What’s the difference? And how does this difference impact our learners?

While we may hear obedience and responsibility used interchangeably, there are some major distinctions that can impact the culture of our classrooms. Educators teach responsibility when weprovide students the space to make mistakesand then together, collaborate on how they can avoid the mistake in the future. This collaboration is where the powerful learning can take place, which can enhance students’ ownership in their own thinking and decision-making. Research suggests that when students feel ownership, theirlearning and levels of persistence can increase.When we effectively teach responsibility, students are better equipped to deal with adversity when they leave our classroom.

However, we merely reinforce obedience when we redirect students consistently without explaining the reasons why. We often hear teachers share that they “always need to be on a student” to keep them from misbehaving. Unfortunately, this often looks like micromanaging, hour by hour, day by day, and month by month. When this micromanaging occurs, studentsare simply reactingto our words, rather than thinking them through. Thus, little learning takes place inside the classroom. And maybe more importantly, they have few tools on how to be responsible once they leave our classrooms.

try this:

1. When providing student feedback, be sure that we explainour reasoning why

2. Be deliberatein designing learning experiences that allow students to make choices in their content, process, product, or learning environment

3. Provide studentsspace to make mistakes, aswe oftenlearn best from our mistakes

4. When students make mistakes,meet with them individuallyand provideacademic or social tools to impact in their future actions

5. Be sure thatstudents feel ownershipin their classroom by having themprovideinput in classroom rules and expectations

6. Take a tally on how many choices we provide students during the academic day to gauge our areas of growth

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How do you reinforce responsibility over obedience in your classroom? Leave your thoughts below.

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