Let The Students Do It!

Over the years, I’ve read numerous blog posts by George Couros and Shawn Ram that have taught me about the benefits of student leadership. These two Alberta administrators have inspired me to change my teaching practices — and I think, for the better. 

Today though, two fantastic teachers that I work with helped show me just what “student leadership” really means. Bill Hutchinson (a.k.a. “Hutch”), a Grade 4 teacher, and Gina Bucciacchio, a Grade 4/5 teacher, both encourage their students to take on leadership roles in the classroom and throughout the school. Last year, Hutch had two students in his class that were fantastic at fixing computer problems. He called them the “geek squad,” and they helped teachers around the school with their computer issues. This year, Hutch is helping to coordinate the Remembrance Day Assembly, and these two students designed a multimedia presentation for the assembly. At first nutrition break today, they came to see me about getting their presentation set-up on my computer, as they’re going to use my laptop to play it at the assembly. Watching these two students work was simply amazing! They started by downloading their file from Dropbox, but it wouldn’t play. I didn’t have the right version of Windows Media Player installed on my laptop. I figured that they’d go back to Hutch at that point and come up with another plan, but no. They went online, searched for the updated version, and with my permission, downloaded it. But wait! Now their images weren’t showing up. I didn’t know what was wrong, but that was okay, as they didn’t ask me to help solve the problem. They stood there and talked it out. They figured out that it was probably because the images weren’t installed on my computer. No problem! They had these images in Dropbox too, so they downloaded them as well. It still wasn’t working though. Okay, at this point, I would have given up, but not these two. The persevered! They realized that they images were in a zipped file, and they needed to be unzipped to be uploaded. And so they did it. The problem-solving that I witnessed was simply amazing. The dialogue was incredible, and the results were spectacular! When they got it all to work, they said to me, “Miss Dunsiger, would you like to see what we did?” Then they stood their proudly, as they showed off one of the best slideshows that I’ve ever seen. They were so proud of themselves, and I was so proud of them too! On Friday, this slideshow will be shared with our entire school community, and these two students will be applauded for what they created. These students were given the chance to lead and the belief that they could do so! What amazing results!

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Surprisingly, the second story has a Remembrance Day theme too. For Remembrance Day, all classes are asked to design a wreath to hang on the cross during the assembly. I had a plan in mind. A couple of days ago, all of my students traced and cut-out their hand prints. I thought that these red hands could be symbolic poppies, and we could turn them into a wreath. Now I’m not artistic in the least, and while this plan made sense in my head, the results were less than desirable. I stapled these hand prints onto a paper plate and then cut out the middle. I thought that it would be creative. It was a disaster. At a fundraiser dinner last night, I mentioned this wreath problem to Gina, and she said that her students could help. They came to get my wreath this morning. Their design challenge was to improve this wreath. Wow! Just like Hutch, Gina gave her students control here. She gave them the chance to lead. They looked at what we did. They discussed what they could add and change. They voted on the changes. They worked in groups. And then, at the end of the day, they brought back our wreath. My class was thrilled, and so was I!

Before Picture

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After Picture

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I learned something very important today: “let the students do it!” Let the students create the presentations, figure out how they’ll work, and problem-solve along the way. Let them press buttons, make mistakes, get frustrated, and then get delighted when things work out. Let them make things on their own. Why did I turn the hands into a wreath when the students could have done that? Next Remembrance Day, I’ll remember my mistakes from this Remembrance Day and I’ll do things differently!


10 thoughts on “Let The Students Do It!

  1. Thank you for your positive words and letting “The Geek Squad” fly. They are in Hutch’s Hut almost daily during nutrition break. Jason and Allan were a delight to work with last year and inspired me @ times too. What I like best about this pair is how they communicate with each other. They are like an old married couple, with a splash of “The Three Stooges” trying creatively to work out their budget.

    • I love what you’ve allowed these students to do, and I really applaud you for your efforts! Thank you for continuing to encourage me to give my students more leadership opportunities in the classroom and the school.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Ms. Dunsiger,
    Hello. My name is Ashleigh Strasser and I am an EDM310 student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile Alabama. Thank you for sharing this story. I have a problem with letting go and letting someone else do something for me, especially a child. Yet now, the students know more than the teacher about some things. This story is very motivating and demonstrates that students are what we make of them and they are capable of making decisions and correcting problems on their own based on what they are taught. I am truly inspired by these students strive to keep going. We can learn a lot from them.

    • Thanks for your comment! I find it hard to let go of control too, but when I allow my students to lead, the results are amazing! I hope that you have the same results throughout your teaching career too.


  3. It is hard for me to let go of the control in my classroom too but i find when I do I get the best surprises. Students really learn best by doing and sometimes that does mean making mistakes. I love that you let them go for it.

  4. I like this challenge. I teach K and there are definitely things that K’s can do to demonstrate leadership. What a great way to make them feel valued. Thanks for posting.

    • Thanks Betsy! I was a K teacher for 8 years, and I completely agree with you. I hope that you’ll share some of the different things you do with your students. I’m sure they’ll love the leadership opportunities!


  5. Thanks Jason! You taught me a lot the other day. Thank you for helping me see things from a different perspective! All of the teachers and students at the school are lucky to benefit from all that the “geek squad” shares!

    Miss Dunsiger

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