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If you have been going to school for say 10 to 12 years, you may feel like the experience of school is same old same old thing, 7 hours a day, 180 days a year. If you ask your parents what school was like in their day, you probably get the same old same old story. Thinking about how school could be different is largely confined to people in the world of colleges. What academics understand is that finally substantial change to public schools has become a necessity and they are churning out large amounts of research and blueprints for school change. Only a small portion of the ideas would actually bring fundamental change, transformation is the buzz word.

I recommend one book, EMPOWER,  that concisely presents a big picture built on the idea that school should meet the needs of students. The subtitle of the book tells the point of view, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN STUDENTS OWN THEIR LEARNING. The authors, John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, present important information in a style akin to a graphic novel – lots of drawings, diagrams, and full page summary points of 10words or less. In other words, they get to the point of complex issues without inducing a desire to nap.

The major themes of what school should be about are: VOICE and CHOICE. Student voices throughout the book express the desire for learning experiences (explore, reflect, decide) centered in personal interests and passions in the present, not a distant future. Natural learning is making your own path through choosing what, how, with whom, where, and when to learn.

The authors are teachers, prepared with lots of possible ideas (but no blueprints) of things you can do to be self-directed: become aware of your curiosity, questions, and wondering what if; apply research on the issue to real problems; create a prototype of what could be different; revise strategy based on what would be more effective; and, explain your work to an audience you choose.

Are you thinking none of your teachers would allow you to make the decisions in the process described above? Teachers have been expected to do all the deciding for years. But there is always the possibility of change, and what else is more important than you getting your needs met? Maybe you can negotiate change with your favorite teacher. Select activities that s/he currently decides and ask if students could decide that.

Interested in looking at this book? Make friends with your school librarian who would love to know you would like to read a book s/he could order. This book came out about a year ago so many people have not yet heard of it. I bet your favorite teachers might like it also.

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