While peer tutoring, cross-age tutoring, and student-driven conversations are increasingly popular in schools, it is rare for adults to actually turn classroom control over to students, or to share that control equally with students.
I have learned that lessons that are co-taught with young people can be powerfully engaging for their peers, younger students, and adults. Adults can examine their own feelings about engaging youth as educators with the following simple activity.
- Using a normal sheet of paper, write a large upper-case “T” that covers the entire page. On the left side, brainstorm all of the advantages you can think of to engaging students as classroom teachers. On the right, list all of the problems you envision.
- Then, use the first list to answer questions inherent in the second: If the left side listed “Student energy” as a plus, and the right side included “Student disregard for peer teachers” as a challenge, brainstorm how student energy can answer the challenge.
- Do that for each issue on the right, and then begin planning how to engage youth as educators.
Engaging youth as educators can be a radical departure from the rigid norms of learning and teaching that many people, including adults and students, are accustomed to. Therefore, it is vital for adults to examine their own perceptions about this engaging youth as partners in teaching before attempting to facilitate it with students. Doing this activity is the first step to engaging youth as educators. Next step? ACTION!