Saturday, April 16, 2016

Learning to Listen

One of my big goals has been to listen more and speak less. By listening more I mean to listen with the intent to understand, not just to listen to hear.  This has been a particularly important goal with my students this year although it really started back a few years ago when I taught an inquisitive young man who was often questioning what was happening in the classroom.

 It was this same young man who asked, "Ms. Lirenman why do you tell us which math station to go to and why can't we just choose our own"?  The first response that popped into my head (and thankfully stayed there) was that I'm the teacher and I want it this way. I liked the control it gave me to keep the class organized and well run. I liked that it meant every student would make it to every activity. I liked it that way.  But I didn't say that instead I said, "let me think about it". 

I went home that weekend and did think about it and when I returned on Monday I told that student that he was right, and that if he and his classmates could make choices about their learning and pick the math stations that best met their learning need to fully understand the concepts we were learning about I would be cool with that.  I did say that I would jump in and support those learners who weren't able to make those choices yet, but I'd jump in with the intent to help them learn how to make those choices on their own.  

Really to no surprise, my students were amazing. I still set up the activities but they were able to make their own choices about what they needed most. Yes, I did step in at the beginning for a few students, but quickly they were successful too. They showed me what they really are cable of doing if and when I let them show me.

Fast forward a few more years.  I'm now teaching in a multi-aged, home/school blended classroom which is part of SAIL (Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning).  I have highly inquisitive students in fact I'd say that most of my class is exactly like that inquisitive young man I taught a few years back. I still write a day plan based on my students and what I know about them as learners.  I understand the curriculum and  have ideas of how we are going to learn what we are going to learn. However I've created an classroom environment where it's okay for my students to suggest other ways to meet the learning objectives. The rewards have been incredible.

My listening with the intend to better understand and know my students has paid off greatly. How are you listening to your students as a way to support their learning?

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