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4 Ways to Enroll Students in a Thriving Ecosystem of Agency

Nobody ever learned anything against their will. Sooner or later it only becomes involuntary. We need enrollment in the sense that students are leaning in wanting to learn. -Seth Godin

Mandatory Education Makes No Sense!

If we want our students to thrive as learners then we must empower our students through agency. We will never reach our full capacity for learning and achievement without it. Fulfillment is the byproduct of co-creation & co-LABOR-ation through student agency. Our students deserve a thriving ecosystem where they feel safe, curious and needed. As educators we are held to a higher standard than any profession in the world. With that comes great responsibility and even greater reward! We are connectors, activators and meaning makers. Our ultimate goal is to help THEM live a happy life.

In his video, Seth Godin uses the example of a baseball fan. Consider how one becomes a fan of anything really. Are people tested into fandom? Are they told what to become a fan of? In Seth's example he begs the question, "How do baseball fans come about? We certainly don't hand someone a manual about baseball and say, Go read these manuals, then take a test. And if you do well on those tests then you can take 10 more tests, and if you do those 10 tests really well then we will take you to a game."

We have standards, curriculum guides, pacing guides, lesson plans, evaluations and every form of testing. Accountability is high. Anxiety is high. Stakes are high. Our test scores are in a fishbowl with everyone peering in through the eyes of judgement. This fishbowl lens of compliance and mandatory education certainly make no sense. It isn't logical nor healthy. But this is our unfortunate current reality. So how do we give students agency when there are so many constraints within the system?

Create an Ecosystem of Agency

What makes us happy as humans is agency. We want to know that we have some sort of control over what is going to happen in our life. When we create agency in our classrooms we become hooked on a feeling of "this might not work, this might work" and either way it is okay. There are several things we can do within our schools to create an Ecosystem of Agency:

1. Enroll in Endeavors

We must seek out our students version of a happy life. On their turf, their version. We must intentionally get to know their version of the world around us, and their hopes for the future. Relationships and understanding their version of their future self is the entry point to agency. We must know their future endeavors. It connects our work as educators to THEM. If learning corresponds to each and every students' personal endeavor, then student agency has been fully initiated. This moves us one step closer to agency and further away from involuntary schooling. (Dr. Erin Raab reenvisioned.org)

2. Enroll in Effort

A failure mindset is an essential ingredient to an ecosystem of agency. We must celebrate failure as a path to perseverance, and perseverance as a path to even more future endeavors. Effort is the ingredient that drives success, achievement and ultimate fulfillment. Personalizing the learning environment to align with student endeavors and celebrating them in an effort rich environment are essential elements to creating an ecosystem of agency.

3. Enroll in Curiosity

Seth Godin shares that you can't be curious and angry at the same time. Either we can be curious about how "this" person got to this moment or be angry at the situation. Creating an ecosystem of agency is about getting to know others' "why". How did he/she get to the point that he/she is acting out in class? Why is he/she refusing to learn? Why does he/she push others away? It is our job, our educational Hippocratic oath in fact, to enroll ourselves in the curiosity of others. This includes our colleagues, parents, and administrators. To create an ecosystem of agency we must always seek to understand and connect with underlying factors of human behavior. We have such limited time to capture the uniqueness of each child. (Wendy Horng Brawer www.14000hours.org)

4. Enroll in Possibility

As educators we dream the impossible and hope for future success in our students. As teachers and leaders we too must be open to becoming something else ourselves. When our students pose questions and dream beyond our own capacities, are we willing to release the reigns and let them lead a new direction. Or do we limit possibility for fear of the unknown. Or our own unknown? Our job is to help them open doors. Our job is to work with them and make them feel welcome and connect with them. The learning ecosystem belongs to them. Its their turf. We are the cultivators, facilitators and guides of their endeavors, effort and behaviors. A true ecosystem of agency enrolls in possibility empowered by their voice and their version of happiness.

There is this space between you and them, the question is, will you risk entering their space? When you do it and do it well not only is addictive, but it opens up enormous possibility. -Seth Godin

Educating the youth of our nation is an honor. Our ultimate goal is to help THEM live a happy life. When students are given agency it supports their version of living a happy life, when they are happy they thrive, when they thrive they learn, and when they learn they exceed any achievement standard we could set before them.

It isn't about taking away high expectations, but rather adding value and purpose through agency.

We are members of the greatest profession on earth and we must dig deep to become the best version of ourselves to seek possibility beyond our wildest dreams. Let's meet them on their turf, with high expectations and create a thriving ecosystem that enrolls in endeavor, effort, curiosity and possibility. If we are going to create student agency we must Let Them Speak! #LetStudentsSpeak

For FREE printable resources to activate student agency, check out these free downloads at MyEdExpert! Let Them Speak! Pledge, Teacher Brag Tags & Levels of Student Voice Participation





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