Teacher to Learner


photo credit: Wellington College via photopin cc

My son and I take Tae Kwon Do together now. He joined before I did. This was purposeful. I wanted him to be one level above me as we progressed together through the ranks. He will be green belt while I am at yellow belt. When he attains blue belt, I will be at green, and so forth. I felt it was important that he see himself as more knowledgable and expert than me in something. He now has the opportunity to also be the teacher, and me to be the learner. For example, as we warmed up last night, I asked him to watch my form that I would be tested on. This is a test that he had already passed. As I went through the motions, he carefully watched my every move. When I was done, he gave me a thumbs up as feedback. By seeing a grown up follow the same pathway of instruction that he took, I hope that he sees himself as an agent of his own learning narrative and in charge of his future.

Relating this example to our school learning environments…

How can we set our own students up to be the experts and teachers in our classrooms?

What would it take for us as educators to be seen as learners in the eyes of our students?

Why is this important?

These are honest and genuine questions I pose, because I know there are many avenues to essential outcomes. Any thoughts you have on this would be appreciated.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

6 thoughts on “Teacher to Learner”

  1. I have to commend you on this concept you have applied so skilfully as a parenting tool. You may already know this but it is a given that your son is sure to reap the benefits of this small but calculated step that you took.
    In classrooms around the world we have many talented and eager students ready to be engaged in the learning process on another level, different from the usual; something more challenging and rewarding than anything else we have on offer.
    What about if teachers adjust their planning slightly to make room for selected students to prepare and act as ‘co-teachers’ for approved concepts, lesson content or topics? Through granting such individuals from time to time the opportunity to take the lead in class will have obvious positive outcomes. Not only will these individuals experience the high level of trust that their teachers would place in them, but will they be allowed to develop and refine competencies different to those usually on offer in class. Those not selected at first may hopefully be inspired to improve and later qualify to be considered too.
    If managed and planned with careful consideration and the desire to make it work this may help to create a new relationship in class. Students will witness first-hand that educators are learners too!


    1. Very well stated, Carel. You are absolutely correct; trust is a critical element when allowing students to take charge of the learning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.


  2. These are great questions to think about… the research on the feedback loop is so important. Often when we are thinking about the feedback loop it is still in relation to our students’ goals. When we are the learners the feedback loop put the student in a different role. Important to think about… Thanks for getting us thinking!
    Clare and Tammy


    1. Yes, very good point Tammy and Clare. Feedback is a reciprocal process: we are observing our students’ responses to our feedback in order to inform and alter our future instruction. Feedback should not go from teacher to student only. Thank you for expanding my thinking on this topic.


  3. Great post Matt and great example of letting a student (or child) take the lead in their own learning. This not only develops independence, but also allowed your son to gain an experience as the expert or leader…..at least to you. Thanks for sharing this great idea and perspective Matt.


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