Treat Students Like Adults?

By Katie Ash — April 17, 2008 1 min read
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Apparently this is treat-kids-like-adults week on Motivation Matters because today, I’m going to point your attention to this editorial, “High schools shouldn’t treat students like babies,” on the Detroit News. The author of this opinion piece, Michael Williamson, specifically talks about issues that relate to Detroit students, but some of the changes he suggests are systemic in nature, rather than regional, so I thought it was worth noting. One particular point he made is something I’ve heard a lot of educators talk about recently. He says:

Don't create a "sit down and listen" model that replicates the classroom of today. Do foster a model of academic endeavor that encourages sociability, social integration, team work, personal responsibility and independence. Take high school to the streets and the marketplace. Integrate young people back into the community. Treat them as apprentice adults.

Doing away with the “sit down and listen” model requires a shift in the definition of a teacher from the “holder and disseminator of knowledge” to the “facilitator of learning,” which is something that I’ve heard over and over again from educators, especially those who have embraced new forms of technology and integrated them into the classroom. With the rise of the Web, it’s easy for students to find information on their own. They don’t need teachers to supply them with facts and figures since that information is already available at the tip of students’ fingertips. The role of the teacher, then, becomes more focused on keeping students engaged, helping them focus their ideas, and giving them the guidance, knowledge, and resources they need to follow through with those ideas.

Williamson’s point also coincides nicely with the idea of engaging students by giving them hands-on, relevant curriculum--the hope being that if students are interested in what they are learning about, they will be more motivated to study and understand it.

What do you think? Do you see the role of the teacher changing in your school, or has it generally stayed the same? What obstacles might arise from this potential shift? What benefits?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.