“Power must never be trusted without a check.” John Adams – Power
Should we trust people with power?
Students are no strangers to power. They have parents, coaches, and teachers exerting power over them and telling them what to do. Students slowly develop a moral sensibility towards authority figures and are quick to point out when they feel power is being used in negative and positive ways.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about power using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Steve Fouts: 00:06
Hey everybody Steve and Dan Fouts here with podcast number 3 and Teach Different. Hopefully you saw our first couple of podcasts about what Teach Different is and what it is that we’re trying to do. We want to use this podcast to talk about our 3-Step conversation method, which we’re going to be unveiling every week from here on out. I’m going to let Dan introduce the concept of the 3-Step method, and then we’re going to practice with John Adams
Dan Fouts: 00:35
We want to think about the 3-Step method like a conversation in a box. We talked about human connection in our previous podcasts and that the way to address this problem of lack of human connection is to get the kids talking with one another, to have a true conversation. That is what this method is designed to do, to get the kids engaged in something that they really care about. This could be a five, ten, or fifteen minute conversation. It isn’t going to replace what you’re already doing in your lesson planning. It’s meant to be put in before, or sometimes after, what you’re already teaching to make what you’re teaching more engaging and meaningful. That’s really important.
Steve Fouts: 1:32
This method will help you with the mental preparation that’s necessary to do before you try to have a conversation about something. That’s what these podcasts will help you with.
Dan Fouts: 1:46
As teachers we get into routines and it can be difficult to come up with creative new ideas all of the time. So, we’re doing a little bit of that work for you. Once you are comfortable with the method, then you can creatively apply it to what you’re already teaching. That’s what it’s designed for.
Steve Fouts: 2:06
Let’s Teach Different with John Adams and look at this quote. “Power must never be trusted without a check.” Power is definitely something students can relate to. They may feel powerless in their families, at school, or even among their friends. They’re not free to do what they want, and have to listen to other people’s expectations and rules. Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page with what the quote means. You’re going to want to do this with your students. Dan, what does this quote mean?
Dan Fouts: 2:53 – Claim
Adams is suggesting that power should not be trusted without some sort of check, some sort of force that keeps it in line. I’m thinking he’s promoting this idea of balance. When having this conversation with students you want to bring it down to their level. You want to encourage them to talk about their personal experiences with imbalance power. It could be right there in the classroom, right Steve? I mean they could talk about…
Steve Fouts: 3:29
Dan Fouts: 3:30
Teacher versus student power.
Steve Fouts: 3:32
Here’s one I really like, imagine a teacher just deciding to give out a grade to a student because they like the student or they dislike the student. A student would want to know that there’s a check on that teacher’s power. A student would want to know that they could go to the principal and complain that they did all the work, but their teacher gave them a C because they didn’t like them. A student can appreciate a check on a teacher’s power.
Dan Fouts: 4:07
I’m thinking of another example with group work. The dynamics of a group project usually has one student who is very dominating and wants to make all the decisions. That creates some tension with the balance of power with other students in the group. You need the silent ones to step up and act as a check on the more confident ones.
Steve Fouts: 4:34 – Counterclaim
Now, let’s think about a counterclaim that you could bring up against a quote like this. Remember the quote is, “power must never be trusted without a check.” Isn’t it true that sometimes we have to give leaders some room to make mistakes and do unpleasant things? Sometimes their subjects aren’t happy about it, but it has to be done. Back to the classroom analogy. Teachers have to discipline students for not doing things the right way. I can see students abusing this check on a teacher’s power by going to the principal to complain about everything in class. When you bring this up in conversation, students are going to admit that knowing there’s a check on power is something that can be abused, and people will abuse that too.
Dan Fouts: 5:33
Yeah, that’s great. You can ask them, what are the important reasons for trusting teachers and administrators?
Steve Fouts: 5:46
Anyone in the position of authority. Parents as well.
Dan Fouts: 5:49
Steve Fouts: 5:50
Who have to make difficult decisions that aren’t always liked by a child.
Dan Fouts: 5:56
Notice what we’re doing in the claim and counterclaim. Draw upon the student’s personal experiences, their lived experiences, so they get emotionally and intellectually invested in this conversation
Steve Fouts: 6:11 – Essential Question
They’re connecting, hopefully they’re connecting. Once the conversation gets going, you never know where it’s going to go. It might take five, ten, or fifteen minutes, or even longer. You’re going to want to wrap it up at some point. Here is a question that you can end it with that will provide some closure. Should we trust people with power? Now, this is a question you could post at the end of the conversation. You could use it as an exit slip, as a journal entry, or as a homework assignment. It’s really good to wrap up these conversations with a very pointed question, one that gets the theme of power in their minds and allows them to reflect.
Dan Fouts: 6:53
In addition to helping wrap up the conversation, the essential question is a great tool to use with your curriculum. In a government class this quote would be really relevant. You can use it in English with novels that revolve around the theme of power. You integrate this conversation before teaching the novel. The novel is going to be more interesting and compelling because of this conversation.
Steve Fouts: 7:32
This is a 3-step conversation. We took you through the process and hope that you will use it in your class to get a conversation started. Make sure you visit our Conversation Library where we have many conversations like this, each with a different quote, a sample claim, counterclaim, and an essential question to get you started.
Dan Fouts: 7:54
A paper trail for this podcast.
Steve Fouts: 7:57
We hope you enjoyed this podcast and are looking forward to our next one.
Dan Fouts: 8:15
Alright, thank you so much.