“We can’t ask teachers to be innovative in their practice while administrators do the same thing they have always done.”

“I am not a teacher but an awakener.” —Robert Frost

I tweeted this recently about the ideas of engagement and empowerment. 


Some things that I have been thinking about the idea of empowerment lately.

  1. How close do we see “engagement” and “entertaining” in education?  I have read books that closely link the two ideas, but long-term, what does this do for our students?  Do they learn to need someone else to make learning interesting for them, or do we have students figuring out how to learn in deep and meaningful ways on their own?
  2. Are schools asking teachers to “empower” students while micromanaging what teachers do in classrooms?  I am seeing the word “empower” often in school vision and mission statements now, but also see a lot of teachers who feel that at the end of the day, their hands are tied in what they are genuinely able to do.  Is that perception or reality?
  3. Being “empowered” doesn’t mean that all learning is fun and exciting through the process.  But if a student has that agency over their learning, are they more willing to work through the dull spots to get to the depth?  I know that when I have more ownership over the direction I want to go, I feel more willing to work through the hard stuff.  Does that apply to our learners as well?
  4. It is not “engagement vs. empowerment.”  The easiest way I can put this is that if a student is engaged, they are not necessarily empowered, but if they are empowered, they are definitely engaged.
  5. If we really want to move ahead in education, teachers and students will need more ownership over their learning. I believe that this can be done within the constraints of our current system, but it will take school and organizational leadership to be innovative in their processes as well.  We can’t ask teachers to be innovative in their practice while administrators do the same thing they have always done.  I have noticed that the schools where teachers are doing incredible things have leadership that innovates inside the box. They do not just encourage different thinking and action, but they model it through their own process in supporting teachers within the constraints of the system.

I am not sure if any of these thoughts make sense, but these are just things I am thinking.  To me, part of the idea of empowerment is feeling comfortable with wrestling with ideas and thoughts on things that you are passionate about, instead of pretending we know it all.  Answers to complex ideas are rarely black and white but lie somewhere in the grey. The more we encourage learners to wrestle with these ideas, the more we move forward as learning organizations.

Source: George Couros