Educators like to use the words “student-centered” teacher, but that means different things in different contexts. I’d like to explore what being student-centered means at Dancing Moose. First of all, you’ll notice that there is no teacher desk. Teachers are not situated at a central place in the room; they are at various places around the room with children. They are working with small groups, sharing lessons with a few students at a time. Teachers are constantly observing students without interrupting and making notes about what they need to reteach next time around.
Teachers want to make sure that children always have an opportunity to think, create, and move around the room. Instead of constantly filling students’ minds with information, teachers think of great questions to stimulate students to make connections and come to new and brilliant conclusions. Of course, teachers still guide their students: they provide many opportunities to share new information, allowing children to contemplate the information, talk about the information, and formulate opinions about the information. This is the essence of learning; it is the essence of student-centered teaching.
Teachers maintain a calm and interested demeanor. They provide a model for children to focus on their own projects. By providing an abundance of interesting lessons in a calm, yet stimulating environment, children are relaxed enough to concentrate and let their personalities shine. Reprimands are not needed in a stimulating environment where children are engaged in thinking and learning.
One of the essential components of this effective environment is a small student-to-teacher ratio. Small ratios are essential to maintain a focus on learning rather than maintaining control of large groups of students. These small ratios provide an opportunity for teachers to listen to, laugh with, and truly enjoy their students. A student-centered environment makes a joyful learning experience for everyone.