Thursday, April 21, 2016

Trusting Your Students

By Mark Heintz

I wanted to connect with the auto teacher, Jeff Zdeconvec, affectionately referred to as Z, for a long time now.  Every year I would get these great updates about how well the auto team performed at state and nation wide competitions.  I would hear great happenings down in the auto shop.  Frequently Z encourages me to stop down to visit his class.  He has always been extremely open to having people stop down.  He is immensely connected to the school and the people in it through servicing a great number of teacher's cars.

Last week, Z finally pushed me to come down to the shop. Not only was I going to get to learn about the class, but Z insisted I let students teach me how to change my oil!  Read that again. Z insisted I let students teach me how to change my oil! He trusts his student's abilities so much, he was willing to let them teach a teacher whose understanding of cars comes mainly for the Fast and the Furious series.  This is the true definition of mastery.  My experience was nothing short of amazing.


When I entered the class, Z started by delegating the work that needed to be finished by the end of the day.  There were six or seven cars that needed work, and Z had the class split into teams.  Three of his students were assigned to teach me how to change my oil. 

Although Z is ultimately responsible for all the work completed by the students, he trusts his students with a great deal.  Students complete almost all of the work.  He merely checks each step of the work for quality and safety.  I have some of these students in my class, and I struggle to trust them to read on their own, let alone give them the trust he does with the responsibility of changing someone brakes.  

The class is a marvel.  There are so many moving parts, pun intended, that it is hard to comprehend how he manages the class.  Students are constantly calling out Z to have him check their work.  He is being pulled in so many different directions and somehow keeping an eye on the safety of all the students.  Carquest stopped by two different times during the period to drop off parts.  Z is essentially running a business and a school at the same time.

I think about how much trust he must have in his students.  This was the first time I have visited his classroom. Not only did he welcome me into his classroom with open arms, he entrusted three students to show me the quality of their skill by teaching a novice such as myself.  The process to change one's oil is incredibly technical.  Students are required to clean up oil spills, apply the proper amount of foot pounds to an oil plug, inspect cars, properly lift a car, and change brakes.  I am still marveling that he knows his students have mastered the work enough to teach a layman.  I have been rattling my brain how to get that level of mastery in my classroom where I trust my students to teach a teacher how to write an essay or the consequences of WWI.

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