Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Students as Teachers

By on April 15, 2008

Student-made films are nothing new.  In 6th grade, I, for one, wrote, directed, and starred in a brilliant re-creation of the epic tale of the Greek myth of Narcissus complete with a leap into a very unheated pool at the climactic moment of the subject’s demise.   OK, so maybe it was only a mediocre adaptation that earned me a very generous B.  But today’s  Chicago Tribune is reporting on a much more important and student cinematic contribution, “The Story of Us,” a documentary-style student film that focuses on the power of rumors and bullying.  The real amazing thing is that this film has been picked up by many American public schools as part of their anti-bullying programs.  

This is only one example of how schools are beggining to tap into students as a means to reach other students.  In other words, students as teachers.  This is a mere trickle now, but the hope is that more students take control of educating their peers.  They learn more by teaching and students learn very effectively from their peers.  It’s why grouping heterogeneously is no important.  It’s why peer editing and collaborative groupings are so effective in the classroom. 

I, for one, even see ways in the school for students to help teachers in their use of technology.  For instance, I have begun a Student technology Committee, a group of dedicated students who want to use their gaming skills for the power of good.  A teacher “hires” us to design a lesson in the lab.  We go to the lab after school, explore the websites, troubleshoot, and create a step-by-step guide for that teacher in using technology to enhance learning.  In so doing, the teacher has less anxiety in using strategies that they themselves as still learning, and the students have an invested interest in the successes of teachers all over the campus and in many different subject matters.  It is sly teaching, to say the least.  It is a way to educate teachers in styles they are unfamiliar with, and to slyly educate middle school students who otherwise may have been playing World of Warcraft all night instead of problem-solving how to make a Life Science Wiki for an 8th grade science teacher.   

We talk about collaboration between students and between teachers.  But there may be a piece missing in this new age of education – that of a collaborative learning relationship between teachers and students.  

Perhaps this philosophical trickle will one day become a creek, and then a rushing river, bringing new perspecitves and energy to lessons we have all been struggling to teach.

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