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The Great American Teach-In: Students Find Voice, Collaborate, and Make a Difference

Written by Janelle Bence
July 24, 2011

Sometimes, the planets seem to align, the clouds part, the sun shines, and a learning opportunity presents itself, a learning opportunity that is so rich, so engaging, and so relevant, that right away, you know it is right for your students. The Great American Teach-In wasn’t only a teachable moment, it was an essential moment to share with my English Language Learners.

Essential Questions: Teach-In

After all is said and done, what should students learn? After progressing in academic writing, reading more independently, analyzing fiction and non-fiction, is there something else? Once students have a successful year, what steps can be taken to help support future achievement?

What about students in urban settings? Those who attend schools labeled as “academically unacceptable” or supposed “drop-out factories”? How do we stop that cycle of incompletion? What will motivate students at these campuses to stop being passive consumers of curriculum that may or may not speak to them and become active producers in a learning context that truly engages them? To become learners who co-create solutions to problems that are meaningful to them? What will help these young people understand that instead of “Waiting for Superman”, they each have the power of agency within themselves?

Students are successful when they see worth in education. With this value, they feel invested in their own educations and are more likely to excel. When learners identify themselves as members of a learning community, they feel accountable to contribute to the group to reach the learning objective. A community shares values and goals that motivate them to work together. Classroom tasks should support and drive the community of learners.

Composing Declarations of Education refocuses students on what they value in education. It encourages discussion of not only what needs to be changed by teachers, administration, district and state staff, but also, what he students are responsible in an academic environment. Working together, students recapture what is important to them, who can help improve education, and what potential there is in future learning.

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