Traditional education expects you — the teacher — to be an expert on your content area, collecting and analyzing data, finding relevant resources, designing curriculum, classroom management, differentiating instruction, understanding standards, parent-school communication, and more. I’m overwhelmed just observing this. I work with teachers around the country. It’s the same everywhere. How can one person know and be expected do so much? Teachers in the US are working harder now than ever before and are undervalued and underpaid no matter what people are saying. I see it. I know. They are grading papers when they should be enjoying their families. They are spending their own money on supplies.
Teachers are our heroes. Let’s be real on what teachers can achieve in the current learning environments.
No one can be an expert on so much. No other occupation expects their employees to not only know their field but be expected to teach it and be measured on the success of their clients who are so unique, different, with their own set of gifts and problems and issues. In public schools, there are larger class sizes, less money per student, and a more diverse student body. More new teachers are being assigned to poorer schools without the support they need, and are expected to do more with less. I watch it and just shake my head.
Here’s an idea:
Since each of us including each student has strengths, let’s identify them and use the experts.
- Have students identify their strengths, their passions, and their interests.
- Create a student list of experts.
- Ask students to choose what skills or knowledge they have where they can help others.
- Put that list on the board.
I am a coach. I work with teachers on their prep time and collaborative planning time. I mentioned to teachers to have students ask three students before you and that sometimes works. One teacher I was working with this week (Tiffany fourth grade teacher at Live Oak Elementary in San Ramon USD, CA) mentioned the idea of student experts. She said when she told students to ask three people before her, they asked their friends who said “I don’t know.” Then they came back and asked her. It just didn’t work. So Tiffany worked with her class to find student experts.
I’ve shared the idea of student experts before, but I think we need them more now than ever. Tiffany’s students are experts on:
- different technologies
- lunchtime duties
- paper monitors
- different content areas
Think about your classroom. Your students at any age even Kindergarten have strengths and they love to help others. When you teach others, you learn more. When your students teach each other, they learn more. Teachers then don’t need to know everything and how to do everything anymore. They can ask the student as the expert in the classroom to teach and coach them.
Using student experts makes a class stronger. The teacher is more of a facilitator and guides the learning process. It’s pretty awesome.