The title of Joshua Davis’ article, “A radical way of unleashing a generation of geniuses” contains a very key word: “unleashing”. The article discusses how children have successfully learned amazing skills with little or no assistance from a teacher. This learning likely would not have occurred if the students had remained on the “leash” of traditional education.
Davis tells the story of Sergio Juárez Correa, a teacher in an impoverished community in Mexico. Correa’s students rank at the top of the country’s test scores. His success story is not about how well he teaches, but how he allows his students to learn on their own. Correa dismisses the high test scores because he is more concerned about what his students can do, than what they know.
Davis’ article also highlights selected studies that document student achievement through self-directed, and even self-prompted, learning.
This radical concept of student-centered learning has intrigued me for several years. I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t even want to be a facilitator, or a coach. In seeking a label for my intended “profession”, it becomes about me and I have hijacked true student-centered learning. Instead, I want to help students learn, or even better, help them learn how to learn. I’m trying to figure out how (or if) I need be involved in that process.
In my informal “teaching” of about 10 to 12 students aged 14 to 18, I try to give them at least 5-10 minutes of the 50 minute class to just visit with each other and build positive interpersonal relationships. Sometimes I don’t begin the class on time if good discussions are already happening. This is often more valuable learning than the lesson that I have prepared. Sometimes we just need to let them off the leash. Then true student-centered learning can begin.