Sam Seidel, director of K12 strategy and research at Stanford d. School, talks about making space for students to express their interests by democratizing the classroom so that the students have a say in what they study.
[MUSIC PLAYING] My way into teaching was through offering poetry workshops, where there was a lot less pressure around literacy standards. And so I had learned through those experiences that a group of students, who many other people saw as really tough students to get through to, could totally come together and light up and lead when it was content that they were excited about and when there was space created. When we pushed the desks to the side and stood in a circle and brought hip-hop culture into the classroom, brought stories and narratives that felt real and relevant to the students in the class and to myself into the classroom when we democratized the space in some key ways.
And so then the challenge for me when I became a more traditional classroom teacher and I was doing my student teaching program, was how to keep that in there now that I had all this pressure to have more traditional lesson plans and to hit these literacy standards and expectations. And show that I could structure a class in a particular way and now that the students weren’t choosing to come as an elective, the students had to come. And so for me, I knew it was possible. And then the mental puzzle, or whatever, the challenge was how to do what I had been doing in the poetry workshop in an English class that was mandatory.
And so I started by asking students what they were interested in learning and what they were interested doing as a springboard. And I think I had a little trouble when I saw what that was, closing the gap between that and what I was supposed to be teaching. I don’t know why I did it but I know that I just brought that to them. And was, I’m just trying to be real with you here.
There’s a chasm, a little bit of a chasm here. Or maybe there isn’t. But I’m seeing one and I’m not sure how to bridge it. Help me. I’m on your side essentially, or I want us all to be working together here and I need you.