by MARIA RAINIER
It may seem like a strange question. Learning demands that students be involved in their own education – that’s just the way it works. But there are two major types of involvement: passive and active. And in many cases, students are passively involved at best, a phenomenon I’ve encountered more times than I care to admit. I love being a piano teacher, but it’s always hard not to take it personally when a student just doesn’t care. That’s why I stopped letting that happen.
Of course, you can’t control students, and there will always be one or two who refuse to become invested in their own education. But I’ve adopted a philosophy of student choice over the years that has helped me gain students’ active involvement. In addition to using this strategy in piano lessons, I’ve found it useful when teaching writing as well, so it may be adaptable to different classrooms with a little creative tweaking. If you want that rewarding feeling that comes whenever you’ve got a student hooked on learning, try asking your students to share the decision-making process to jump-start your classroom’s involvement.
I discovered this by accident, which is a bit ironic since I’m a control freak myself. I didn’t think about the reasons behind its efficacy until I’d already found it to be useful, but it’s a logical step in education. K-12 students feel like they’re being controlled by everyone – parents, teachers, even friends – and they have almost no role in determining their own education. That can be a huge turn-off, so if you can share your decision-making responsibilities even nominally, it can go a long way toward earning the trust and intellectual investment of your students. Here’s an example from my experience: