Challenging the “norm”

I had a really interesting conversation with an 8th grader this week. I recently started a group called the Spartan Tech Squad. The Tech Squad is a group of students that completed applications to join in and begin developing tech training materials and support for students and staff at our school. The group has been meeting during our FLEX period the past few weeks and we’ve been discussing project ideas.

So far, the students have designed a website to house their materials, they’ve found great resources, learned how to screencast, and created great tutorials. One of the 8th graders asked me when they were going to start going out into classrooms and helping teachers.

I said that we weren’t ready for that stage yet. Of course, the student asked why they weren’t ready yet. So I shared the truth with him, that technology can scare teachers, that some teachers don’t trust students, and we have to show what we’re capable of first.
I was feeling like I gave him a great response, that I knew what I was talking about, and we would get back to work.


Immediately, the student went on to say that my response didn’t make any sense. He was completely baffled that teachers wouldn’t trust them. He confidently stated that students know more about technology than most teachers. I conceded that I agreed with that statement. The student went on to say that the only way to gain their trust and to show how competent the group of students are, is to get out there and start helping people.

I got ready to defend my statement, but I hesitated as I formed the response in my mind. What was the REAL issue here? ME!

In some of my endeavors, at meetings when I share a new thing, or when I talk about how much I love (a book, a tech thing, or new project) I’ve gotten dirty looks from teachers, I’ve heard negative comments about how something is a fad, or been ignored. To be totally honest, I really want my Tech Squad group off to a solid start before they go out into the school so they have a great image, and I don’t get judged like I usually do.

How selfish. As I walked around the room checking out the projects students were working on, I thought about my concerns. I was worried about “the norm”, how things have always been done and continue to go. That students are just students, teachers are the leaders and in control, and we don’t dive into new things.

Here I had a student proposing an idea, with strong evidence, and obvious passion and I was saying “no”. What right did I have to say no?

I am grateful that I have a relationship with my students that encourages them to discuss things with me, to disagree with me, and to challenge my beliefs. I spent the entire week thinking about how wrong and selfish I was. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how amazing my students are.

I’ll spend some time this weekend working on more training for the Tech Squad and outline some ideas for how they can step up and step out into their classrooms to help others. If my students are courageous enough to take on this challenge and to argue their point with me, then I need to have more courage to stand up for them and their abilities to be leaders in the school.

Have you ever had a student challenge your thinking on how something should be done? How did you respond?




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