Our students as honored guests…

When we make invitations central to our teaching, we begin to see our students as honored guests in our classrooms. Invitations are the most powerful force in teaching. When we use them in our personal lives, we want people to become guests in our homes. When we see our students as guests, we move away from acting as authorities directing from the front of the room.

We remember teachers who told us every day where to sit, what to do, when to do it, and how. We complied because this was the way to do school. We now understand that if we continue to espouse learning as compliance, we will fail to teach for such qualities as initiative, responsibility, and creativity—so necessary in our global world.

When we see our students, then, as honored guests (despite their having been assigned to us), we see them as who they are and who they can become. We talk to them as partners in learning rather than act as purveyors of knowledge. We pursue our central question: “What can I do every day to invite children to learn in my classroom?” We see ourselves as hosts serving smorgasbords of ideas, questions, reflections, materials, skills, information, and understandings. We spend our days exchanging rather than telling.

Our decision to extend invitations, however, is the first half of the equation. How students and families respond is the other half. Invitations, like gifts, succeed only when accepted. John Keating’s “invitation” worked, as his students accepted his challenge to “seize the day.” If our invitations fail, we must persist and feel confident that we can find ones that will work.

For more about the key role of invitations in teaching see Chapter 4 in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918