I often like to think of the quote from Kevin Kelly, who says: “Nobody is as smart as everybody.“
That hangs in my head every time I go into a classroom. I look at the classroom. I look at the students. I start to think about who they are. Throughout the semester, I learn more and more about who they are, and it becomes increasingly evident to me that with all the intelligence and life experiences that they have, they are collectively much smarter than I am alone. Then the goal becomes trying to somehow harness all of that.
And I think I’ve finally found the “secret sauce.” It basically comes down to approaching the students as collaborators, co producers, co researchers, or whatever you want to call them — but not as students. So you take away that hierarchy.
I still maintain that I’m the most experienced in the bunch — the expert learner, the expert researcher. But the students also have skills to bring to the table, and it’s important to recognize those. Doing so facilitates a feeling of empowerment among them. I try to harness that from the very beginning, pointing out to them that whatever we do is going to contribute to the real world.
We’re not just going to be hiding behind the classroom walls and doing our own thing.
We start to brainstorm together: “What does the world need from us? What can we do?”