Student Engagement and Empowerment

Dack, H., & Tomlinson, C. (2014). Searching for the irresistible. Phi Delta Kappan

Magazine 95(8), 43-47.

Dack, Hilary, & Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (2015). Inviting all students to learn. Educational

Leadership 72(6), 10-15.


What is our goal as educators? I know for a fact it isn’t to get through the content of the curriculum, and it certainly is not a check list of what we need to get through. When I first started teaching I was given the IRP’s, for some I had to purchase, and I was told that these massive piles of text were the curriculum and I had to get through it all.  As a new teacher, I believed I had to get master it and ensure my kids got a glimpse of it to be the best teacher I could be. Once I had my own classroom, I realized that was not where my heart as a teacher was, and it certainly was not something I was about to follow.

In the two articles Dack and Tomlinson speak of knowing and understanding the students. I believe we need to see students as individuals, we need to know who they are and what are their strengths and their struggles. We need to understand the students place. Place being where they are at emotionally, academically, physically, and mentally. Dack and Tomlinson explain that when planning curriculum, we need to think of if as a way to ” guide learners to see interconnectedness of knowledge and human experience over time and across places.” (Dack and Tomlinson 2015).

We must also ensure that we see that the students are all different in a variety of ways and that we need to put our assumptions aside and work towards creating a place where students and educators are all understanding of one another. We need to model to our students that we will all see what we are learning through many lenses, and as teachers we need to embrace that. “Differention is essential to the academic growth and motivation of students from all cultural backgrounds.” (Dack and Tomlinson 2015). We need to see that differention is not just about learning abilities, but more about who the students are and where they come from.

When planning with kids in mind the curriculum becomes a part of them, we need think of each student as we use multiple learning processes, strategies, and curricular competencies to plan our lessons.  It tells the kids that we care about who they are, we care about their learning and development, we care and want to create a safe place where they can continue with their learning journey after they leave us, and we want the kids to know that what we do is because they matter.

I am again drawn back to the Circle of Courage when I read the articles. I connected what Dack and Tomlinson say about knowing the students and with what the Circle of Courage represents, independence, mastery, belonging, and generosity. I see how they all connect with each other, and how what connects us to our students is all relational. We need to let go of the check lists and getting through the content and focus on getting to the child. Finding and giving the students we work with hope, confidence, empowerment, and a safe sense of place. Our re-designed curriculum is a wonderful tool to help guide teachers into the unknown and the explore and embrace what the students bring to our classrooms each day.


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