kayla delzer student leadership

Kayla Delzer: 3 Ways to Promote Student Leadership in the Classroom

Kayla Delzer motivates us to relinquish control and empower students with three powerful examples. From student-led social media to students calling parents with score reports and student-led conferencing, these three ideas can help empower students in your classroom.

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Kayla Delzer: Student Leadership

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e311
Date: May 14, 2018

Vicki: Happy Motivational Monday!

Some of you are going to laugh at this. So we’ve got the Top Dog Teacher talking to the Cool Cat Teacher, so we have a Top Dog and a Cool Cat today for Motivational Monday. (laughs)

But we’re talking with Kayla Delzer about students as leaders, which is a theme, Kayla, that you have a lot. What do you mean by students as leaders?


Kayla: So, first of all, thank you so much, Vicki, for having me. I am so excited to be here today!

A big thing that I have in my classroom is, “Everyone’s a teacher. Everyone’s a learner.”

“Everyone’s a teacher. Everyone’s a learner.”

So what that means is that my kids take a lot of ownership and leadership in my school, in my classroom. Teach a lot of lessons, and they read a lot of different things in our classroom.

Vicki: Okay, so you have several different ways that students lead. Give us one of those ways.

Kayla: OK. Just for one example, we have student-led social media accounts in our classroom. My social media is all about teaching, and my students are on Instagram and Twitter as @topdogkids. So we have a Tweeter of the day every day, and we have an Instagrammer of the day every day.

Student-led social media accounts

The whole reason behind having these accounts is of course to share our story with the world, but more importantly to teach my students about how to appropriately behave on social media and how to use digital citizenship early on, before they actually have those accounts at home with their families.

So they’re in charge of sharing our story every day from our classroom — sharing highlights, sharing our work, sharing our story, with not only other teachers and other classrooms, but other teachers who follow along as well.

Vicki: So you pre-approve these? Tell us the age of your kids, kind of about how you go about the process when they say, “Ms. Delzer, I have something I want to share.”


Kayla: Really, if there’s something that they want to share, it has to fit all of our digital citizenship rules — which is actually a curriculum that I developed about four years ago.

There are seven different rules. So it has to follow all of those different things, and it has to highlight something that’s happening in our classroom. It has to be a celebration. It has to be important. It has to be necessary. It has to be kind.

So for example, sharing if a student improves on a test score, or sharing what we’re working on in math. Sometimes we’ll also just reach out to authors, or we’ll reach out to other classrooms and connect to them in that way as well.

Vicki: You teach. You’re an elementary teacher right?

Kayla: Yes, Ma’am! I teach third grade.

Vicki: Awesome, so we just want all of our listeners to understand that these are younger kids. Have you ever had a problem?


Kayla: We have not had a problem yet. Every once in a while you might have somebody follow the account who we don’t know, or who doesn’t look like somebody that we would not want to be following our account, so we might block them and have that discussion about when to block and how to block.

But it has been really an important learning process for my students, and for their parents, and for me, and I feel really great about them being equipped, when they go out and have these accounts by themselves, that they’ll make the right choices on social media.

They’ll know how to do it in a positive and uplifting way, instead just teaching kids how to NOT use social media or what not to do, or trying to scare them into not using it.

Vicki: OK. So Kayla, student-led social media. That’s going to scare some people. But you also have student ownership of scores. Explain that to us.

Student ownership of scores

Kayla: Yes, I do. We have a celebration close today.

We finished our assessment last week, and then this week was all about STAR testing. And I’m not sure what kind of assessment you have in the south, but we have STAR tests, some people had NWEA.

But what I do is at the beginning of the year I set a growth goal with all of my students, and of course we test again in December. And then we test again, today we tested.

So for the math scores my kids knew what their goal was. Many of them had reached them in January, so we had to reassess and reset a goal. But when they finish this test what happens is they hand in their paper to me, we look at it together right then and there.

Then what my students actually do is they call their mom and they call their dad and they report their scores to their moms and dads. So they talk about where they came in, and where they ought to, and how much growth they had.

Most of the time, I’m crying on the phone because I’m so proud! Lots of times the parents are crying too in joy as well. Because it’s just so cool for kids to really take ownership of that, and it becomes not just a test that they have to take, it becomes really a piece of evidence that they are ready to move on to fourth grade.

I feel that when you do that and kids really take ownership, their scores are actually much higher. For example, lots of my kids, scored at fourth grade or fifth grade. Some of them even topped out the test today, and it said above sixth grade, which was really awesome.

Vicki: So when you make these calls, I guess you’re doing it privately, so the other kids don’t hear their scores?


Kayla: Exactly. And so we do it when other kids are maybe a specials, or maybe going to recess or lunch or something like that. Of course, keeping the information private is important.

Vicki: Yeah. OK. Now, you also do student-led parent-teacher conferences, and we’ll show in the show notes to some folks who have talked about this. Tell us about those.

Student-led parent-teacher conferences

Kayla: OK. In our classroom, instead of just having parent-teacher conferences, we actually have student-led parent-teacher conferences. I think this is an important shift that needs to be made, especially in elementary classrooms.

So what happens instead of me just reporting data and reporting goals, my students actually sit on the other side of the table in the teacher chair, and I sit with the parents on the other side of the table.

My students basically go through a portfolio of goals that they have, dreams that they have, things they want to work on or improve — both personally and academically. They share that with their parents. They also share their early data, so they share their early scores that they had in different tests. We share our math tests with them as well.

It’s just generally a good time for all of us to get on the same page, to all hear the same language and all hear the same information.

I think about me even growing up as a student. I knew I was a good student, and I grew up with both of my parents being teachers, so I just kind of knew I was never going to get away with anything in school.

I might as well follow all of their rules, which I still do, and I definitely feel whenever my mom and dad went to parent-teacher conferences, even though I don’t think I did anything wrong, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. What is my teacher going to say about me? That is so bad. What did I do wrong?”

I was always so nervous for them to come home, and of course my teachers weren’t saying bad things about me. It was that sort of unknown that gave me the anxiety.

So I really just love having everybody sit around the table and just really show that student that “Hey we’re all on your team, and we’re all here to work together to support you to reach your goals this year.” And that way everybody hears the same information. Everybody leaves the conference feeling amazing. The parents are so proud, the students come dressed up to lead the conference, and they feel amazing, so it’s just really a win-win for everybody.

Vicki: What happens when you have hard issues? When you have a student who has behavior issues, or is really struggling, or might have a learning disability and you need to talk about it with the parents — how do you handle those specific issues?

Kayla: So we still talk about them with kids there too. Especially if it’s a student with learning disabilities, the IEP is there, and we talk about it with the special education teacher as well. And they go through everything together. It just gets us all on the same page.

And I definitely have kids who have behavior issues going on in the classroom. And we talk about, “Are we seeing those things at home too?” Sometimes it’s a yes, and sometimes it’s no. And it gets us all on the same page. So if maybe that parent WAS having that behavior at home, they can say, “How are you NOT having that anymore? What’s working home so I can try that that at school?”

Or maybe they’re having the behavior at home, and I can say, “Oh, well we’re doing “zones of regulation in our classroom. So I can give you some posters for that at home, and you can try it at home. Again, even if it is a harder issue, I think it’s important to just have everybody on the same page, hearing about it, and talking about it — to just show that student support in every way that we can.

Vicki: Kayla, as we finish up, would you give a motivational talk to teachers about empowering students and letting them be leaders and teachers in the classroom?

Kayla: Sure.

So, Vicki, one thing that I say — and I preach and preach and preach — is everyone’s a teacher, everyone’s a learner. And then of course, the more power I give up in my classroom, really truly the more power that I feel I get back.

The more power I give up, the more I get back

And so being willing to turn over some of the teaching to your students — turn over the leadership roles, turn over your seating charts, or your social media, your parent-teacher conference — turning those over to your students is one of the best decisions you can make in your classroom.

Because really, truly, the more power you give up, the more you actually get back in your classroom.

Vicki: And I’ve really found that to be true as well, remarkable educators.

You know right now we’re doing the apps. We have project managers, assistant project managers, graphic designers. And I basically meet with the leaders of the teams. They’re organizing them! They’re in charge!

It’s just incredible what happens, and the growth that happens you do have students as leaders. If you don’t, why not? Now’s a great excuse to start!

And the other thing is — if you tried at the end of the school year, what do you have to lose? You’re not committing to it for the whole year, you’re kind of just trying an experiment. And see how it goes, “Hey kids, I want to try this out and see what I’m going to do in my classroom next year. Let’s see what we think of this.” And go ahead and try students as leaders in these ways.

And check out Top Dog Teaching and all Kayla’s work. She has lot of resources to help you get started. Thanks Kayla!


Kayla: Thank you so much!

Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Kayla Delzer is a globally awarded 3rd grade teacher and technology champion in North Dakota. In fact, The New York Times named her “one of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States”.

She has ten years of teaching experience in second and third grade. Kayla holds her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota. In September 2018, she will be receiving the University of North Dakota Sioux Award, the highest honor of achievement offered by her University.

Governor Doug Burgum has recognized Kayla for her contributions to education in North Dakota, and assigned her a chair on North Dakota's Innovative Education Task Force.

She has been recognized as both an “ISTE Influencer” and “HarperCollins Publishing Influencer”. Additionally, in March 2018, she was named 1 of just 30 “All-Star Digital Innovators” in the United States by PBS.

Kayla frequently travels around the United States and other countries as a featured and keynote speaker. She has delivered well over 100 keynotes, one of note being at Twitter Headquarters. On July 23, 2015 she delivered her first TEDx Talk, Reimagining Classrooms: Students as Leaders and Teachers as Learners.

Her work with classroom redesign and flexible seating has become the standard worldwide, and she was recently selected as a recipient of the Global Hundred Award, designating her as one of the top 100 innovative educators in the world. She is currently writing a book about classroom learning spaces and flexible seating, titled FlexED: Flexible Seating for Flexible Learners, set to release during the summer of 2018. She is also a co-author of the best-selling book Education Write Now, published in December 2017.

Blog: www.topdogteaching.com

Twitter: @topdogteaching

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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