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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Democratizing the Classroom: Balancing Power with Learners & Teachers

Hey there, extraordinary educators! Guess what? I've decided to shake things up in the academic cosmos today by talking about one of the most nervously chuckled topics in the educational universe - Sharing Power. No, this isn't about divvying up control over the remote (though that's a war we all know too well), but about the shared dynamics between teachers and learners in the classroom.

"But, Professor Power-to-the-people!" I hear you cry, "Sharing power? Isn't that a bit like giving the fox the keys to the henhouse?"

Fair enough, my fearful fellow academics, but hold onto your textbooks because we're going for a wild ride into the land of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR).

The mere mention of YPAR can send shivers down the spines of some teachers, and I get it. The classroom is a finely balanced ecosystem. Teachers lead. Students follow. That's the circle of life, right? Cue Lion King theme music.

The fear is genuine. Isn't relinquishing power akin to letting an army of hormonal teenagers rule over us? As exciting as an educational Hunger Games may sound, the reality is far from that. But like your favourite coffee mug says, "Keep Calm and Listen to Your Favorite YPAR Educator" (or something like that).

The truth is, sharing power does not mean giving up control. It means restructuring the power dynamic in the classroom to include students in decision-making, research, and problem-solving.

YPAR is not about creating an educational anarchy but about empowering learners. When students are active participants in their learning process, they develop critical thinking, resilience, and problem-solving skills. They begin to understand their value and the impact they can have on their education and community. The classroom transforms from a lecture hall into a dynamic, living, breathing ecosystem of ideas.

The result? More engaged, invested learners and, surprisingly, less stressed teachers!

Still nervous? Don't worry, let's embark on a power-sharing journey together with some neat strategies and activities. Who knows? You might even find the power shift exhilarating.

1. Start Small: Sharing power doesn't have to happen overnight. Start with small activities like involving students in setting classroom rules, or deciding the theme for the next project. Let them taste responsibility; you might be surprised at their maturity.

2. Create a Safe Space: Emphasize that everyone's ideas are valid and valuable. Encourage open discussions and debates. And, remember, the only 'stupid question' is the one that isn't asked.

3. Learn Together: Admit it, we don't know everything (shocking, right?). Let your students teach you something. This encourages them to explore their interests, and guess what, you learn something new too!

4. Student-led Conferences: Let your students lead the conversation during parent-teacher conferences. This is an excellent opportunity for them to take ownership of their learning and progress. Plus, it's great practice for future job interviews!

5. Make Feedback a Two-Way Street: Give your students the space to provide you with feedback. Brace yourself; constructive criticism is a dish best served by teenagers!

Embracing YPAR in the classroom doesn't have to be a white-knuckle ride. Sure, it’s a little bit out there (like pairing plaid with polka dots), but with the right attitude, a sprinkle of patience, and a whole lot of humor, we can create a more democratic, inclusive, and effective learning environment.

And so, brave educators, it’s time to power up, share that power, and get ready to rock the educational cosmos, because the future of education is not just in our hands, it's in theirs too! So, buckle up and enjoy the ride! Happy power sharing, you fabulous bunch!

Until next time,

Your favorite power-sharing, design-teaching, YPAR educator


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