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Teacher as Facilitator

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him
discover it within himself
- Galileo

"I'll be there . . ."

This is a composite role that calls upon many facets of a teacherās abilities and common sense. It is difficult to quantify or define precisely, yet it is not difficult to recognize when it is occurring and to know when it is missing. It is one of the most crucial advances in developing a more complex visualization of teacher.

Teachers who facilitate personal growth in students are unique, extraordinary, worthy of the dedication. It requires a self assurance, a willingness to share self, to care, to begin a journey, then launch the student on a personal quest which may not be shared; to send the student beyond the teacher, perhaps with the student never realizing or appreciating what was given. It is that unqualified and indefinable difference between training and education, bossing and leading, telling and teaching.

When we find the teacher who is a facilitator, we find a classroom where personal growth is flourishing.

The role of facilitator is resisted for many reasons:
    we tend to teach the way we were taught
    there is a hidden "power barrier" which literally dams up the notion that children might be treated in any way other than as inferior, less intelligent, less knowing - and of course they are in one sense, and yet. . . "the child is father of the man"
    we sense that telling information is faster - which would be true if students were like computers and learned best through direct input
    direct linear teaching is easier to plan, evaluate and objectify
    researchers in the past suggested teachers learn to teach in one best style and stick with it
    it is frightening for some teachers to "let go of students" for there is a sensation that there may be no way to get "control" again, and there isnāt in the same fashion
    we have never had a teacher run a classroom using this format or role, so we have no inherent moves to model
    one philosophy suggests that people are basically unmotivated and donāt want to be at school anyway, so if allowed to choose they will choose to do nothing
    since so many districts use scores to show teaching ability it is frightening to make a change with no assurance that students will score higher
You can give your whole attention only when you care, which means you really love.
-J. Krishnamurti

Teacher as Facilitator

I was so used to having responsibility for learning in my classroom that I had a very difficult time accepting the ideas taught in Cooperative Learning. When I read the part about being a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage, I laughed. I wasn't giving up my teaching power a nd sitting on the sidelines. I recall thinking, "I have responsibility to myself and to humanity to see that when these students leave my math class theyāve completed the book and taken every test. Furthermore, how am I supposed to motiveate students to work if they are allowed to spend time talking together. I have enough trouble now, just getting their attention when the bell rings."

Since then I've been involved in the new math programs that suggest working with manipulatives, teaching concepts through realism and as part of integrated subjects. The difference in the enthusiasm and learning that takes place isnāt even quantifiable. Not only do a adhere to the idea of being a facilitator and guide, I'm nearly an evangalist on the subject!

Six characteristics which identify teachers who are high facilitators of personal growth:

  1. effective listening
  2. genuineness
  3. understanding
  4. respect
  5. intelligence
  6. skill in interpersonal communication (Wittmer & Myrick, p. 40)
Effective Listener & Communicator
  1. Good eye contact
  2. Gives attention to what is being said - particular words, body language and non-verbal expressions, vocal tones, process and timing
  3. Try to feel how the person is feeling and thinking
  4. Attempt to become involved in how the speaker is perceiving the world
  5. Express that you are listening, are following the ideas, are hearing what is being said
  6. Send awareness of the person as a being with no judgmental overtones
  7. Validate recognition by checking with the person or reflecting what was said
  8. Listen to disclosures without rushing the person
  9. Work to rescue true meanings and real needs as a part of listening
  1. Direct personal encounter, person to person
  2. Defensiveness or retreating are minimal and real sharing in maximized
  3. Roles are recognized as roles and not used to distance one another
  4. Feelings are admitted and recognized, those which are positive and those which are less comfortable but just as real - anger, sadness, weariness, joy, ennui, frustration, peace, need for solitude
  5. Because human growth is developmental, there is a peace in letting be, in giving time to children to see things in different ways from our own
  6. The right to disagree is valued, honored, offered in peace.
    When two men inform one another of their basically different views about an object, each aiming to convince the other of the rightness of his own way of looking at the matter, everything depends, so far as human life is concerned, on whether each thinks of the other as the one he is, whether each, that is, with all his desire to influence the other, nevertheless unreservedly accepts and confirms him in his being this man and in his being made in this particular way. The strictness and depth of the human individuation, the elemental otherness of the other, is then not merely noted as the necessary starting point, but is affirmed from the one being to the other. The desire to influence the other then does not mean the effort to change the other, to inject one's own "rightness" into him; but it means the effort to let that which is recognized as right, as just, as true (and for that very reason must also be established there, in the substance of the other), through oneās influence, take seed and grow in the form suited in individuation. - Buber, 1967
  1. Empathy describes true understanding - becoming immersed in how a student feels rather than how we feel they may feel or should feel
  2. Reading the clues and cues another sends and validating them
  3. Perceive what is being expressed to eliminate defensive stances or withdrawal
  4. Involve the student in learning to understand self, and move toward understanding others. -- (this works better after a child is at least 7 and can become involved in second person perspective more readily)
    . . . one ought not to equate social health with total harmony, with a lack of contradictions and strains. Actually, vigor and creative flow have their source in internal strains and tensions. It is the pull of opposite poles that stretches souls. And only stretched souls make music. - Eric Hoffer
  1. Accept a studentās experiences as important to him/her
  2. Practice respect of others as a part of the classroom system and process
  3. Task analyze the times when students do not show respect to each other or the teachers to better set up the procedures, drills and skills which will enhance the use of respect with one another
  4. This is often shown through optimism, deep interest and concern
  5. Positive regard, warmth and respect will earn the respect of students, while demanding or punishing for respect will lead to anger and misbehavior
    There is nothing produced by man more powerful than an idea, yet there is nothing at birth so delicate. An earthshaking idea could be murdered at birth by a smirk. It has been said that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. The problem seems to be in its surviving until its time can come! - Theodore A. Cheney
  1. Extensive knowledge of subjects taught
  2. Love of knowledge and learning - with a desire to share the love and the skills
  3. Knows when to expedite learning by sharing personal insights and when to allow student exploration and personal discovery
  4. Becomes involved in learning about the cultural background of students
    Mastery of the fundamental ideas of a field involves not only the grasping of general principles, but also the development of an attitude toward learning and inquiry, toward guessing and hunches, toward the possibility of solving problems on oneās own. Just as a physicist has certain attitudes about the ultimate orderliness of nature and a conviction that order can be discovered, so a young physics student needs some working version of these attitudes if he is to organize his learning in such a way as to make what he learns usable and meaningful in his thinking. To instill such attitudes by teaching requires something more than the mere presentation of fundamental ideas. -Jerome Bruner
Type of Task graphic: need for flexibility

Understanding the amount of flexibility to give students on tasks and at different stages of learning is a key to working effectively as a facilitator.

Communications for Students
Communication skills are very simple and straightforward sets of behaviors. Young people can be taught to communicate using these behaviors, and are quite good at doing so. Because of the pace of development of empathy and the ability to know and care how others feel, it does take a while for empathy and understanding to become an equal part of the communicating process. This does not suggest that teaching children a set of skills will teach them to communicate, but it does suggest that the skills can be put in place and the other facets will come together over time and as a result of social and emotional development.

Teacher Power

Power graphic: explains the difference between Coercive and Reward.

Perhaps the greatest power that is called foris the power to believe in others, to give students responsibility, and then to have the faith and self control to let the students become fully accountable. Perhaps in addition to faith in the final outcome, it also helps to have a mantra. . .

"I know they can do it, I can let go.
I know they can do it, I will let go.
I see they can do it . . .
I have let go."

My Declaration of Self-Esteem


In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me
Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
I own everything about me - my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know -
but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whaterver I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest,
and invent something new for that which I discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do.
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive,
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me and

-Virginia Satir

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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu

Course Created by J'Anne Ellsworth & Center for Technology Enhanced Learning

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