Cool cat teacher blog kayla delzer 3 ways to promote student leadership in the classroom q mart gas station

Kayla Delzer motivates us to relinquish control and empower students with three powerful examples. From student-led social media to students calling parents with score reports and student-led conferencing, these three ideas can help empower students in your classroom.

Kayla: OK. Just for one example, we have student-led social media accounts in our classroom. My social media is all about teaching, and my students are on Instagram and Twitter as @topdogkids. So we have a Tweeter of the day every day, and we have an Instagrammer of the day every day.

The whole reason behind having these accounts is of course to share our story with the world, but more importantly to teach my students about how to appropriately behave on social media and how to use digital citizenship early on, before they actually have those accounts at home with their families.

There are seven different rules. So it has to follow all of those different things, and it has to highlight something that’s happening in our classroom. It has to be a celebration. It has to be important. It has to be necessary. It has to be kind.

Kayla: We have not had a problem yet. Every once in a while you might have somebody follow the account who we don’t know, or who doesn’t look like somebody that we would not want to be following our account, so we might block them and have that discussion about when to block and how to block.

But it has been really an important learning process for my students, and for their parents, and for me, and I feel really great about them being equipped, when they go out and have these accounts by themselves, that they’ll make the right choices on social media.

So for the math scores my kids knew what their goal was. Many of them had reached them in January, so we had to reassess and reset a goal. But when they finish this test what happens is they hand in their paper to me, we look at it together right then and there.

Most of the time, I’m crying on the phone because I’m so proud! Lots of times the parents are crying too in joy as well. Because it’s just so cool for kids to really take ownership of that, and it becomes not just a test that they have to take, it becomes really a piece of evidence that they are ready to move on to fourth grade.

I feel that when you do that and kids really take ownership, their scores are actually much higher. For example, lots of my kids, scored at fourth grade or fifth grade. Some of them even topped out the test today, and it said above sixth grade, which was really awesome.

My students basically go through a portfolio of goals that they have, dreams that they have, things they want to work on or improve — both personally and academically. They share that with their parents. They also share their early data, so they share their early scores that they had in different tests. We share our math tests with them as well.

I might as well follow all of their rules, which I still do, and I definitely feel whenever my mom and dad went to parent-teacher conferences, even though I don’t think I did anything wrong, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. What is my teacher going to say about me? That is so bad. What did I do wrong?”

So I really just love having everybody sit around the table and just really show that student that “Hey we’re all on your team, and we’re all here to work together to support you to reach your goals this year.” And that way everybody hears the same information. Everybody leaves the conference feeling amazing. The parents are so proud, the students come dressed up to lead the conference, and they feel amazing, so it’s just really a win-win for everybody.

Vicki: What happens when you have hard issues? When you have a student who has behavior issues, or is really struggling, or might have a learning disability and you need to talk about it with the parents — how do you handle those specific issues?

Kayla: So we still talk about them with kids there too. Especially if it’s a student with learning disabilities, the IEP is there, and we talk about it with the special education teacher as well. And they go through everything together. It just gets us all on the same page.

And I definitely have kids who have behavior issues going on in the classroom. And we talk about, “Are we seeing those things at home too?” Sometimes it’s a yes, and sometimes it’s no. And it gets us all on the same page. So if maybe that parent WAS having that behavior at home, they can say, “How are you NOT having that anymore? What’s working home so I can try that that at school?”

Or maybe they’re having the behavior at home, and I can say, “Oh, well we’re doing “zones of regulation in our classroom. So I can give you some posters for that at home, and you can try it at home. Again, even if it is a harder issue, I think it’s important to just have everybody on the same page, hearing about it, and talking about it — to just show that student support in every way that we can.

So, Vicki, one thing that I say — and I preach and preach and preach — is everyone’s a teacher, everyone’s a learner. And then of course, the more power I give up in my classroom, really truly the more power that I feel I get back. The more power I give up, the more I get back

And so being willing to turn over some of the teaching to your students — turn over the leadership roles, turn over your seating charts, or your social media, your parent-teacher conference — turning those over to your students is one of the best decisions you can make in your classroom.

And the other thing is — if you tried at the end of the school year, what do you have to lose? You’re not committing to it for the whole year, you’re kind of just trying an experiment. And see how it goes, “Hey kids, I want to try this out and see what I’m going to do in my classroom next year. Let’s see what we think of this.” And go ahead and try students as leaders in these ways.

She has ten years of teaching experience in second and third grade. Kayla holds her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota. In September 2018, she will be receiving the University of North Dakota Sioux Award, the highest honor of achievement offered by her University.

Kayla frequently travels around the United States and other countries as a featured and keynote speaker. She has delivered well over 100 keynotes, one of note being at Twitter Headquarters. On July 23, 2015 she delivered her first TEDx Talk, Reimagining Classrooms: Students as Leaders and Teachers as Learners.

Her work with classroom redesign and flexible seating has become the standard worldwide, and she was recently selected as a recipient of the Global Hundred Award, designating her as one of the top 100 innovative educators in the world. She is currently writing a book about classroom learning spaces and flexible seating, titled FlexED: Flexible Seating for Flexible Learners, set to release during the summer of 2018. She is also a co-author of the best-selling book Education Write Now, published in December 2017.

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