I listened to a podcast this week that gave a passionate message about empowering our students and staff to take control of their work and learning. While I appreciated the energy in the message, I have never liked the term empowerment. I feel the term gives the impression that those on the top have all the power and they decide at some point to share or give that power to those below them.
I feel in our schools today, we need to stop worrying about how we can empower those whom we serve, but instead, try to figure out why and how their power was taken away in the first place. We need to ask questions like: At what age or in what circumstances, does a student feel they are not in control of their education? Or, where do our students feel the education they are getting is not what is needed? Or, where and why do our students give up their power?
Answering these questions is paramount in many of the current battles we fight in our schools. Once our students relinquish their power, then, and only then, do we start chasing the tail of empowerment. We can get too worried about empowerment, and how to quick fix the problem, instead of trying to figure out where the problem started in the first place and look at solutions for the future.
The same idea can be applied to the top down model that often runs our schools. As school leaders we need to ask a similar question: Where, and why, are we taking the power from our teachers? Instead of focusing on empowerment, we need to be leaders who have not taken the power from teachers in the first place. We need to focus on setting up a culture where teachers have the power to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students sitting in front of them each day.
I want to build a school where the power does not need to be given to our students and staff, but a school where the power was never taken away in the first place. I know that may seem like semantics of the term, but I believe the thought process behind it is what brings the power back to the educators, and learners in our schools.
This one will need more thought, but it is one I will continue to question and I hope you do too.
Keep learning, keep growing, keep sharing!