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To Give Students an Education, Give Them a Voice

On 18, Jul 2013 | One Comment | In Education | By Daniel Kao

The role of a teacher is evolving. As industries, technologies, and the needs in the world change, so does our approach to preparing the next generation for their lives ahead of them.

In the past, teachers presented information in an organized and systematic manner in order to distribute valuable information to students. Schools were the only place that students could go to learn, because knowledge was completely centralized at the top with the elite professors and researchers. Knowledge was not freely accessible.

But teachers are no longer the ordained link between knowledge and students. Anyone with an Internet connection can access any piece of information known to mankind. In today’s world, the industry is no longer looking for workers who just follow instructions; machines are putting compliant workers out of jobs. Industries are hiring workers based upon what unique abilities they bring to the table.

Thus, we should be raising our students as individuals who are able to collaborate as classes, not as individual classes that compete as students. Students can no longer be treated as products of a factory line, because industries are no longer interested in pools of homogeneous workers.

Schools need to realize that every individual has a story, whether a teacher, student, or administrator. Schools need to realize that these stories are not disruptive to education, but highly necessary.

“What if teachers actually shared their personal stories with students who were willing to listen?” – Daniel Kao

In the most recent Student Voice chat on twitter, participants joined in on a conversation about how to give safe spaces for students and teachers to share their voice.

Among the topics that were discussed were teacher feedback, communication, discussion, and even classroom and school hierarchy. But among the chat, a thread of human connection was undeniably
evident.

“i think if students knew it had a big enough impact they would feel empowered by the responsibility” – Gabbi Morgenstern

“[Teacher]s must help create a culture of respect and invite student voice in diff ways. [Teacher]s must build relationships and know [student]s well.” – Laura Robertson

It’s nearly impossible to bring inspiring academic education to students when their basic human needs are not met. Every human has a need for relationship, trust, communication, and love. And just as companies and marketers are realizing that sales are very much an emotional decision, schools need to realize that education is also very much an emotional process.

When students are taught by a teacher who believes in them, trusts them, and wants them to achieve something above and beyond what the teacher themselves have achieved, students will naturally become more passionate and excited about learning. How would your high school experience be different if your teachers told you, “I am here to share the lessons I’ve learned so that you don’t have to make the mistakes that I did. You were born to change the world, so let me help you do that.” at the beginning of the school year?

Motivating students to succeed means more than simply giving them a reason to study. Students need to know that they matter. But it’s difficult for students to feel like they matter when they don’t have a voice. For too long, schools have been run on a one way street where teachers speak to students. But in order to foster healthy communication and a shift in academia, we must give students the opportunity to respond.

If we can’t even give our students a voice, how can we expect to give them an education?

Originally written as a guest post for the Cooperative Catalyst on 5/22/2013

photo credit: Profound Whatever via photopin cc

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6 Tips on Being a Better Leader in High School

On 11, Sep 2012 | One Comment | In Education, Life | By Daniel Kao

As a recently graduated high school senior (class of 2012) that has served in leadership in various clubs and groups, there is definitely a lot more to leadership than it might seem. Here are a couple of pointers.

Take Risks. You will fail sooner or later, and once you come to accept that, you will realize that you grow best in leadership when you learn from your own mistakes. With that said, never hesitate to venture out into the unknown, and do things in ways that no one has ever done before. Think outside the preconceived traditional ways of leading, and focus on doing whatever you can to help.

Lead By Example. The fastest way to lose people who support you is talking the talk without walking the walk. Lessons are infinitely more valuable when you teach from experience. When you experience something, you experientially know what is practical and what is impractical.

Inspire People. Inspire people to action. Give them the freedom to question you, and make yourself open to any opinions or concerns people might have. Invest above and beyond what is required of you into these people’s lives, and get to know people personally.

Have a Vision. Establish a vision and refer back to it often, so that you constantly take steps toward your goal. A vision is something that often takes weeks to establish, and may change as things go along. Since having a fuzzy goal leads to fuzzy results, try to be clear with your vision, defining every little term so that everyone who hears your mission statement interprets it the same way.

Serve Humbly. Leading is not about building yourself up and making yourself famous. Ironically, the way to most successfully lead any group of people is to build them up and make them famous. Because when you empower other people to lead other groups, your influence extends to people you would never have had time to influence. Learn to build other people up.

Communicate. Being able to communicate is perhaps the most valuable asset to a leader. Focus on being able to express your ideas clearly, meaning that you probably may have to repeat yourself. Also understand that communication is two way, meaning listening is also key to communication. Take interest in what the other person has to say, and value them as individuals. There is no such thing as overcommunication.

Lastly, remember that you are dealing with high schoolers, which means you are dealing with a huge variety of maturity levels and changing personalities. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go your way, because leading a teenage kids can be a real challenge. Just pick yourself up and keep being awesome.

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