Classroom empowerment is the business of making a difference to make a difference. When you make a difference in the lives of students, you give those students the potential to make a difference in the lives of others for forever.
The opportunity to create a causal chain of positive character from one generation to the next is the most novel reality. As teachers, our responsibility is to think beyond mere teaching. We are not just paid year after year to teach students the ingredients of the curriculum, assess their knowledge, grade them and move them on to the next grade level.
Because of the challenge of teaching, many educators may look at the teaching profession through dimly colored glasses, but there is always a greater way to reach the most unwilling students. Only a few teachers have found the secret of making a classroom the place where students want to be.
During my most profitable teaching years, I have had the privilege of working with educators who had discovered the secret of empowering a classroom. The application of 10 effective concepts, consistently applied, proved to make the difference between empowered and struggling, mediocre classrooms.
The Top 10 Empowerment Concepts
At the beginning of the school year, a teacher must teach purpose. Before anything else, students must realize that they are in school to become positive difference makers in society. If students are not fully acquainted with this fact from the start, many will have difficulty adjusting throughout the school year.
Therefore, teachers must entertain the ears of the classroom with the idea of purpose from day one. Instilling a deep knowledge of purpose will provide students with a desire to achieve their best in academics, character, and expression.
No significant motivation for learning will occur in a boring classroom. Students should feel excited about moving to the next assignment. I f your lesson plans are flat and uninspiring, the class will not absorb much of what you are teaching.
Students must understand the importance of what they are learning. Many students act up in class because they don’t understand the purpose of learning about English, Math, and Science. Therefore, when presenting the lesson plan, you must make sure the clarity is a priority.
When students understand what they are doing and why they are doing it, the assignment suddenly becomes exciting.
A sense of ownership makes people feel responsible for what they own. When we give students a sense of ownership for the classroom, they will feel obligated to take care of it. You may disagree with this fact, but it is true.
One reason students continue to waste time in class is that they don’t feel at home in the classroom. ‘It’s Miss Holy or Mr. Swanson Classroom,’ they think.
To change such thinking and create a sense of student ownership, a teacher should never say “This is my classroom,” especially not in anger. Instead, we should say, “this is our classroom, and we must keep it as perfect as we can, every day.”
Not only should each student have a particular hand in taking care of the classroom, but students should also have a hand in creating what rules should be followed and what consequences should be administered for not following the rules.
Having a sense of ownership in the classroom will make students feel accountable for what goes in the classroom. A sense of ownership empowers!
An empowered classroom is a team of students who knows how to work together to get things done. The concept of team is very significant. If students cannot work together, it will be impossible to empower them to work as an empowered classroom.
Great teams care about and support one another. If there is a problem with the team, the issue is talked out and resolved without hesitation. Students must learn to work as a team to become instruments of empowerment.
They must be able to work through difficulty, conflict, and selfishness. Every student must do his part with the knowledge that he is doing it for the sake of others. Teachers must replace the concept of “I” with the concept of “We”. Throughout the classroom, the sound of “We” must be the norm.
The failure to pour on the recognition is one of the biggest mistakes the majority of teachers make during the school year. I can agree that it is hard to give praise and recognition constantly to students who steadily disrupt the classroom, but this is exactly what it will take gradually to redirect the negative behavior of some students.
Recognizing students for good seatwork productivity, respectful behavior toward classmates and keeping in line with the rules and regulations of the classroom is the hallmark of empowerment. When teachers verbally and tangibly honor students for daily productivity and character, these students feel good about their uniqueness and ability to perform excellently.
Catch students doing well throughout the day and recognize them. At first, this may be exhausting, considering all the other duties of teaching, but if practiced without reservation, the ability to honor students will become a habit.
Teach with impact. Weak teaching is like “I don’t want to be here, but the sense I am, I might as well get through the day.” Impact teaching means that lessons are taught with a sense of passion, excitement, and engagement.
Ask questions and get students to ask questions. Allow them to stand up and come up front. Full engagement of teacher and students makes learning exciting.
A part of classroom empowerment is allowing students to be highly involved in the daily learning process. This approach is utilized by outstanding teachers of the year.
Learning is more than lecturing students with a boring, dry and unengaging subject. The majority of teachers don’t allow students to come up front enough. But in classrooms of empowerment, students are not only allowed to come up front but to teach whole lessons at times.
Don’t be afraid to allow students to take the stage while you facilitate the project or activity.
The more students are convinced of their ability to win the more empowered they become. As teachers, we must prioritize ability at all times. Promote a sense of ability in the classroom. Define the word time and time again so that students with grasp the significance of the term.
If students don’t have a keen awareness of their ability to start and complete an assignment, they will be timid in their ability to learn. Therefore, teachers must convince students that there is nothing impossible to accomplish with the ability that is within them.
Every student must know that he or she has the inner ability to be a starter and a finisher in whatever they set their mind to achieve. However, many teachers never strive to eliminate such student doubts and fears about what they can and cannot do.
One mains reason students act up is that the doubt themselves when it comes to understating assignments and doing seat works. But once a student is convinced of his ability to do anything, he will become excited about learning and perform excellently.
Problem Solving is a great channel by which to empower a classroom. Ultimately, the arm of all activities within the classroom leads to solving some problem. Educators must teach as well as a model to their students how to solve problems.
A lot of this training is accomplished through group work or projects. The teacher sets the criteria for group projects and then facilitates the activities from beginning to end. But students must resolve every problem encountered through the completion the project. The types of issues that will likely be manifest include:
- Process problems
- Quality problems
- Attitude problems
Students must be allowed to work through each to be considered an empowered classroom. When working on a project, a student should be choosing to record all conflicts and how they were resolved.
When variety is put in each lesson planning, learning becomes exciting to students. A lesson plan should consist of a variety of teaching methods, including music, games, and movement. Some teachers start the day with soft music to get students in a receptive mood for instructions.
Studies show that music can make students more focused on raising the Alpha waves in their brain.
Outstanding teachers can make a lesson plan so interesting that students will be willing to forsake recess just to stay inside and participate in the learning.
It is never too early to teach students about their responsibility to society. They are being taught to make a difference in the generation to come: their generation. They must know that the reason they are learning what they are learning is to take control, to become the leaders, inventors and change makers of the next generation.
They must understand that what they do in school today will determine how well they make a positive difference in their neighborhoods, communities and yes, their country.
When students know of their responsibility in creating a strong future society, they will feel empowered to release the best within themselves.
Work with Allies to Master Classroom Empowerment
In order to master the business of classroom empowerment, you must work with others who think the same way. Great things cannot be accomplished without the support of others. Therefore, enlist parents, fellow teachers and outside resources to create an empowered classroom.
Make connecting with parents a top priority. Teachers and parents working closely together to empower children will go a long way in helping to accelerate the transformation of these children.
You and fellow teachers must support one another on a daily basis. Working together to create empowered classrooms will have its challenges, but two or three like-minded teachers working together can move mountains.
Research rich resources, including outstanding educational websites, Youtube channels and other social media channels to get creative ideas for empowering your classroom.
Beware of administration. When you are determined to empower your classroom, you must have the courage to go against some the limitations that administration will place on you as an educator.
Administration ideal of a great classroom is based on the idea of coverage and silence. I mention this issue in my book Criteria for Exceptional Classroom Teachers. For example, if your classroom is always having good time learning, some administrators might think that some aspects of the curriculum are not getting done.
Moreover, administration, as well as some teachers, may think that your classroom is out of order most of the time. But don’t allow yourself or your classroom to be shaped by outside opinions and fears. The greatest teachers possess a certain degree of radicalism which creates greatness in academics and performance.
The Duty of Every Teacher
The business of classroom empowerment is the duty of every teacher. The future depends on upon us teachers to delight in what we do. Our duty is to shape and design the lives of students so that they will be able to influence the lives of others for the better.
The benefits of empowering our classroom are vast, including accelerated growth in academics, character, and positive expression.