Recently I was on a bus trip to a soccer tournament with a boisterous group of grade 4, 5 and 6 students. The bus was buzzing with the chatter of kids full of excitement as we rattled down the rough Saskatchewan back roads. If you know Saskatchewan you know that the flat prairie allows you to look out for what seems forever. As we drove along we saw smoke rising in the distance, a common sight in Saskatchewan this time of year, as some farmers take to burning the stubble left on their fields after they are finished their harvest. The grade six teacher and I began commenting on the fire which caught the attention of a student sitting behind us. He noted that his dad burns his fields and that on the weekend prior to this trip he had been helping his father. The grade six teacher asked, "how do you keep your fire from getting away on you? Aren't you afraid you'll burn up your neighbor's field?" The boy responded in a way that only a farm kid could when trying to explain things to a couple city boys such as the teacher and myself (I didn't have the heart to tell him I grew up in a farming community). He spoke slowly and explained every detail clearly and carefully.
What was interesting was that in that moment this grade six boy was the teacher and we were the students. We were curious about something and he used his expertise to explain to us how he and his father contained their burns.
I thought about this conversation for a while and started wondering:
I thought about an art class I observed last year where I saw this in action. The students were all working on the same sort of art project that involved creating a template and spray painting on a small 10" x 14" canvas. Their creations were amazing, and some of the students who were traditionally reluctant to take part in art class were turning out pieces of work that they were truly proud of. After the class I had a chance to sit with the teacher and ask where he discovered this idea. I was fully expecting him to tell me about an art class he once took or how the idea came from a colleague or from the teachers' new best resource, Pintrest. When he told me where the idea really came from, I was so excited. He said, "no, this wasn't my idea, it was Jason's (pseudonym). He was working on this and the other kids thought it was awesome, so I let him teach them how to do it".
This is what it's all about. Allowing children to feel important and valued. Giving students the chance to have their voices heard rather than asking them to sit passively in class while we, the experts, are the ones holding all the knowledge. This is the important stuff.
How have you seen this in action? As a teacher do you know your students well enough to know where they can lead? As an administrator do you know your staff well enough where they can lead?
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.