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Creating Classrooms that Work | Esther Wojcicki

1984:  Esther Wojcicki teaches her first journalism class at Palo Alto High School;  nineteen students attend. She brings with her a teaching methodology based on trust and respect that she has used with her three young daughters, and a skepticism for the traditional classroom model of desks in rows, the teacher in charge, and students in silence.  School administrators take strong exception to her model, and the resulting disagreement leaves her close to being fired during her first year on the job.

2013:  The school’s Media Studies department has become a model for academic departments everywhere:   it has grown to 600 students, five teachers, and ten award-winning, student-produced, self-supported publications.  Wojcicki has been named 2002 California Teacher of the Year, and on Digital Learning Day in 2012 is honored by the US Secretary of Education as one of a small group of “great teachers” who use technology effectively in the classroom.   What went right?

“Changing the culture of the classroom to one where students are treated with trust  and respect and given independence will revolutionize education.  It seems too simple to be true, but it works.  Most teachers treat students with little respect, and that impacts the way they learn.”

The simple – but powerful – recipe for success is a TRICK that begins with Trust and ends with Kindness.  In Wojcicki’s model, students and teachers alike are empowered to do the best work they can, and the results have been startling not just in her department, but in others where her methods have been adopted.  In this impassioned  TEDxBeaconStreet talk, Wojcicki shares her experiences as a mother and teacher and offers a vision for how what she and her students have learned can produce similar results in classrooms everywhere.