Tapping Into Teacher Empowerment

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to view the Wakelet

How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier. 

What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school?  I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem.  From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students.  That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.

Listen to Teachers

Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision.  Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.

Promote Intellectual Curiosity

It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important  to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering.  We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.

Take Action Through Agency

The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over.  We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than  submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom.  What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.

Begin Good Conversations

One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work”  in the classroom  (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment.  Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday. 

Never Lose Sight of What is Possible

The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.

#G2Great #5 Yes, They Can! Empowering Community

by Fran McVeigh

Thursday, November 14, 2019 was the fifth and final chat in our “Yes, They Can!” series envisioned by #G2Great Team Member Valinda Kimmel. Our focus was on “Empowering Community” and the discussion was lively with some common threads for the evening and the entire series. Basic concepts included: “Yes, They Can”, communication, transparency, and student agency but with that quick look at our end point, I would like to recap the first four chats to establish a sequence of learning and set the scene for this post.

This “can do” theme has been a great source of optimism and positivity so when the following tweet in my Twitter feed stopped me in my tracks before I began to study our Wakelet, I immediately had a lengthy conversation with myself. (Several conversations!) This tweet seemed to embody the opposite of what our series was hoping to initiate, develop, and nurture. Numerous re-readings kept me focused on the concept of transformation and the amount, volume or depth of pressure in order for change to occur. Check it out! What does it say to you?

Twitter, November 14, 2019

In order to empower students, hear from #studentvoices, teachers, leaders, and community, the status quo will need to be disrupted. That process or transformation will take time, work and a desire to “stay the course” in spite of adversity. Keeping Denzel Washington’s words to “trust the process” in times of trouble will serve us well because our “stick-to-it-iveness will be tested. Keeping the end goal in mind will pay off when we encounter productive struggle and yet remain planful and purposeful.

Reprise: Favorite Quotes

This series of chats had some very consistent recurring phrases: Whole Child, High Expectations, Restraints/Barriers, Partnerships, Measures of Success, Advocacy, and Sustainability whether they were worded that explicitly in every chat. In isolation each phrase is specific to empowerment and worth of investment in resources. And yet, layers of high expectations from students to teachers, to leaders and to communities may result in higher levels of success, advocacy and sustainability when the phrases are also interwoven and combined.

Empowering Community

The final chapter. The final chat. I hear Frank Sinatra in the background, “And now, the end is near, And so I face the final curtain . . .” A focus on “Yes, They Can! means that community will need to be defined. Classroom community, building community and district community will all have impact. But what about the relationship between the school components, the people in the school and the community in which they reside. How well do their needs match up? How well do they interact on a regular basis?

Communication was one key factor that emerged from tweets in our chat. Communicating a consistent school mission/message about the importance of learning and the goals of the school. Communication about the roles of the students, the importance of student agency and the role of the community stakeholders on a regular basis in learning. Communication included measuring and reporting success in stories that matter to the members of the community.

Student agency was another key factor in this chat. The role of students, their own voices and their choices in their learning as well as in volunteerism in the community were noted. Real choices. Real roles. Not just checking off volunteer lists but finding, exploring and developing their personal passions.

Transparency also emerged as a third key factor that included many of the topics in the chat. Transparency in measures of success. Named targets are easier to achieve that unknown shots in the dark. What data is reported beyond the required external, summative assessments? Who tells the stories? Do they show in the board reports, local newspapers, and student yearbooks?

And then the most important factor, the “Yes, They Can!” that was the theme for all five weeks. A belief in students. A belief in parents. A belief in teachers. A belief in leaders. A belief in communities. With high expectations, everyone can reach higher. Everyone can dig in. Everyone can struggle, undergo that transformation that Denzel Washington described, and emerge victorious.

How will you use, “Yes, They Can” to stretch and grow?

DateChat TitleWakeBlog
10/17/19Five-Part Series (Yes, They Can) 
#1 Empowering Students 
WakeBlog
10/24/19Five-Part Series (Yes, They Can) 
#2 Empowering Student Voices with Justin Dolci 
BlogBlog
10/31/19Five-Part Series (Yes, They Can) 
#3 EmpoweringTeachers
WakeBlog
10/24/19Five-Part Series (Yes, They Can) 
#4 Empowering Leaders  
WakeBlog
10/17/19Five-Part Series (Yes, They Can) 
#5 Empowering Community
WakeBlog