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Dr. Steven Wurtz

Chief Academic Officer

Let me tell you the story of a young boy named Louis. Louis grew up in a small French village outside of Paris in the early 1800’s. He was the youngest of four children and was raised by loving parents who were leather workers by trade. Louis often went to visit his father at his shop. While there he would play with the materials and try to make holes in the leather using a sharply pointed tool called an awl. This instrument is often used to create holes we commonly see in the belts we wear. One day, while he was busy making holes, the awl slipped and caught him in the eye. His parents rushed him to the doctor, but it was too late. His eye could not be saved. Sadly, several days later, his other eye became infected. At the age of three, Louis found himself blind.

Louis was blessed with parents who encouraged him as he adjusted to his newly darkened world. They provided resources to help him navigate the town and he attended the Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While in attendance, he met a captain in the French Army who invented a new communication system called “night writing”. This system used a series of dots and dashed impressed into paper. This intrigues Louis. It mattered to him. By age 15, Louis Braille had taken what he had learned from this relevant adult and invented what we now know as the Braille System- a system that has impacted millions for almost two centuries.

This story, related by authors John Spencer and A.J. Juliani in their book Empower, illustrates the power of relevance and student ownership in the learning process. When we, as educators, make learning meaningful to the life of the learner, they become highly motivated and committed to that learning and the impact can be far reaching. Kids want to learn about things that matter to them and they should have that experience daily.

Spencer and Juliani continue by sharing six important truths for us as educators to consider as we design relevant learning experiences for our students.

Every child deserves to own their learning.

Teachers have the ability to empower student ownership to be lifelong learners. This boosts their creativity and commitment to their learning, which can have incredible results!

Every child in your class is someone else’s whole world.

By empowering our students, we can start to transform society’s social/human connections.

Stories will always shape us and help us learn.

Let’s empower students to create and share their own learning stories. It’s pretty incredible how the world can be transformed through the power of storytelling.

The only thing you can prepare students for is an unpredictable world.

While we don’t know what the future will hold or what each of the roles our students will play in it, we can prepare them to be thinkers and problem-solvers who are able to collaborate and communicate their ideas well.

Literacy is about learning, and learning is about unlearning and relearning.

We need to give students the space to try new things and to make mistakes without consequences. Growth mindset is the foundation for lifelong learning.

As teachers, we have a huge impact on our students’ lives.

When empower our students, we amplify that impact.

Being an educator is a gift. Giving our students the gift of owning their own learning is one that will keep giving exponentially. Let’s together make the choice to put learning back into the hands of our kids. They deserve it.