Learning in listening.

Since my first formal observation, I have been actively working to navigate/negotiate my position of authority with my students—establishing my authority in the classroom was one of my goals established during our debrief. I have found my small reading groups to be a great space for exploring/experimenting with this practice (there are two groups I am consistently planning/facilitating, one in English and one in Spanish). While this is definitely still one of my greatest challenges, I feel like I am making strong improvements in balancing my natural desire to be fun/goofy with the kids vs. setting/modeling clear expectations for engaged learning and behavior.

Even still, this has been an extra challenge with a few students.

A couple of weeks ago, I made it a point to play with these particular students at recess, show them that I genuinely care about and want to listen to them. Over the few following days, this seemed to make a world of difference. Nothing else significant had changed in our routines or interactions, yet these students (who previously were the hardest for me to engage) demonstrated a level of respect for me in small group that I had not experienced before. I was blown away! I don’t necessarily expect this change to be permanent, but I do feel like I am developing strategies to help me sustain this mutual respect with my students.

Authoritative discipline is not the only way to demand respect, and it is not the way that I want to demand respect from my students. When I do, the response from my students does not feel authentic, and I feel worn down and discomforted with my practice. I am finding that when I really take the time to listen to my students, and demonstrate that I am deeply listening, they tend to listen to me in response, within class and without. I am also finding that I tend to do the same with my own teachers too. When I feel like I am truly listened to by my teacher, I am more motivated to listen to them in return. In so many ways, what motivates our behavior as adults may not be all that different than what motivates our kids behavior in the classroom….

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