Someone in class demonstrates an exercise, I give corrections and/or compliments, and someone else raises their hand and says, "I couldn't see any of that."
I then tell them they should have moved sooner so they could see it.
Why does this bother me so much? It frustrates me when students aren't proactive in their learning, and instances like that one are a manifestation of a greater problem in education:
Students are not taking charge of their learning and, I dare say, their lives.
Empowerment = Taking Responsibility
I've been thinking non-stop about the idea of empowerment. I've been wondering about how some students expect their teachers cater to them and how in doing so, they lose opportunities to empower themselves, to be the driver in their lives. And I guess that's why instances like the one above annoys me so much: it's obvious some students aren't accustomed to taking responsibility, so the thought never occurs to them that the they have the power to fix the problem.
Of course, I'm placing judgement on them (I have no idea what their lives are like), but the answer to their solutions was so blatantly obvious (move so they can see), that to this day I'm wondering how they approach everyday problems in their lives.
Sometimes I wanted to over dramatically tell my students, "Having people solve your problems in life takes away your power to live it!"
Empowerment means not waiting to be taught things.
There are students who wait to be taught things. Another annoying thing to hear in the classroom is: "Well, no one ever taught me, so I never learned." That's an excuse, not a solution. In my classroom, we focus on the latter because the latter opens more doors of opportunity.
Empowerment Creates Fearlessness
Some students are scared to try new things. I see their hesitation and questions become their crutch.
One of the most annoying things about teaching is when I teach a new step and a hundred questions pop up before they try it. I say, "Try to figure it out and if you have questions, then ask them. But don't ask for help before you even try." Doing this helps cognitive reasoning, problem solving, and accountability for actions. But, above else, it gives a person confidence to move forward with empowerment and a stronger sense of self; they know they have the ability to independently create the outcome they desire and take risks while doing so.
Am I Empowering Myself?
And then I have to ask myself, "Ah crap, am I empowering myself? Am I problem solving independently? Am I practicing my beliefs?" As a teacher, we never ask our students to do things we won't do ourselves, so teaching inherently makes me look at myself honestly and, consequently, humbles me as I see my own weaknesses.
So I'm trying my hardest to take responsibility in problem solving, be proactive in my learning, and move forward with fearlessness. And, just like any other attribute, I can't rely on outside sources to empower me, I have to find the strength from within.
What does empowerment mean to you?
photos by the wonderful Dane Shitagi of Ballerina Project