In chapter 6 of George Couros' Innovators Mindset, he opens by sharing a story of a cab ride with a deaf cab driver. He relates how he engaged the cab driver through gestures and careful mouthing of "Thank you" to close their ride. He then tells of a story of another cab ride, and another deaf cab driver, but this rider used YouTube to learn how to sign "Thank you." (Couros, 2015).
This story shows the difference between engagement and empowerment.
Couros goes on to argue- and I totally agree- that this versus is not like Batman Vs Superman where one is clearly better. (Batman) No, this versus is more about what they look like, what is the difference, and how do they actually work together(Couros, 2015).
My CREATE Classroom, Didactic Cafe, was created to increase student engagement. More conversations, more peer interaction, less napping and Snapchat. That was accomplished pretty quickly via Coffee Talks, our student led discussions that start each class. Engagement regularly runs at around 80-90%- which was my goal. These are daily shoulder taps and mouthing words like Couros did for his cab driver.
But are my students empowered?
Couros also relates that another versus exists: school vs learning. He argues that school seeks answers, learning seeks questions (Couros, 2015).
Coffee talks are student led- so the students are coming up with the questions- which is technically empowerment. Students are now taking discussions in class to administrators- mostly about dress code- but they are taking their voice outside of class. They are also taking ownership of their learning in other classes and with their personal time outside of class.
These are all things that have been happening all year in my class. But there is still a place where empowerment is needed.
Civility and open discourse.
We live in a time where civility and open discourse are hard to find. Our students see that, and often ask me what they can do. The answer to that starts with me asking- what can I do?
1. What should I do next?
I had already planned to try this, starting tomorrow, but I am waiting to write details until after I have run a few days of it. The plan is- Coffee Talk will be used in my debate classes to build each other up. The "facilitator" sits at the front of the room, and the rest of the class shares what they like about that person and/or what inspires them about that person. A little social emotional connection to empower each other with peer support.
2. Where could I use this again?
I want to see how this works, but I definitely see potential for it to roll out in Psychology classes to increase support and ultimately collaborative learning. I want to see, after a few iterations, what other benefits it could have.
3. What is important about it?
It builds a culture of support and collaboration. My students know that communication in society is not civil or kind- but this has the potential to empower them to make a change- to look for the good in each other. I believe this will lead to a more collaborative and supportive culture for classes, which will lead to more extended and impactful learning.
4. My goal?
I want to see my students see their safe place is not my room's physical structure. I want them to see the safe place is each other, and me as their facilitator of learning. I want to see students love learning, and feel safe to ask those questions that lead to empowered learning.
I plan to share more of this "positive" Coffee Talk soon. I look forward to seeing where it leads!
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.