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Empower Students and Learning Will Happen

It's a strong word with a lot of gusto.

It means to give power to someone else or promote self-actualization.

Empowerment is essential for student learning and in 2015, #empower was my #oneword.

In the current system, too often students are beaten into submission. They learn young that the best way to play the game of school is to comply and willingly empower their teachers or school authorities to tell them what to do.

For many years students will be the victims of this powerful trust that robs them of their own abilities to think and/or take risks to benefit their own learning experience.

They are disempowered in this world. Moving through the day without real question for why and those who do question are sacked with disciplinary action.

Our world is different now and it is arguable that the old or traditional system didn't really work even for those it seems it had for. Many of us survived the old system in spite of its efforts to steal our creativity and wonder because we learned to do what had to be done without giving up all of our power.

So it is time to take action for our students. Put the power back into their hands and start teaching them how to use this great opportunity. 

Shifting a mindset can be challenging and slow going, but we must be earnest in our efforts to give students choice and control over their own learning. Classes must inspire students to step up, ask questions and believe in their own abilities, realizing that mistakes will happen and that's the only way to grow.

That's what empowerment is all about. Taking the teachers' wants and goals out of the equation and allowing students to be the masters of their experiences. We should be there to facilitate and help, but not to control. 

So how will you empower your students? I started by letting go of the reigns.

*This piece originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in 2015. It has been modified.

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