1. Listen, with respect, in order to understand.
For the last several years, this has been the first “rule” in my classroom. It’s absolutely necessary for acquisition to occur and for community to build.
It’s actually a fairly simple rule….and I post it, point to it, refer to it and try to live it as often as possible. That last part, the living it, is sometimes the hardest part….for me!!
Teachers (and a lot of other human beings) tend to listen in order to reply. Not to understand. For me, that has been a hard habit to break. But when I manage to really listen, it often changes everything I thought about that moment and the student I am listening to.
More and more I am convinced that students not only acquire language from us, but also attitudes, interests, curiosity and actions. It’s what humans are wired to do. We (teachers) consciously and unconsciously project who we are and what we believe and think. Students consciously and unconsciously absorb what we think, feel, say and do. There are things that the clearly and consciously agree to accept and do…..and others that they acquire without even realizing it.
We all want to belong. When the behavioral rules of the class are clear, it is easier for students to follow the rules and be a part of the group. So Rule #1 is clearly posted. But if I want students to trust the rules and to trust me as the teacher, I have to follow the rule as often as possible.
That has not been easy for me!!!! I’m a bit of a talker!!! As with most habits, it takes a while to do it naturally. Lots longer than I would have liked. But it has made me a better teacher……and as with most things in teaching, it has also made me a better person.
There are a lot of ways to “teach” the rule, but that is another post for another day. But I do post it, I do “teach” it, I do enforce it, and I do try to model it whenever I can.
Does it work? Did my students become better listeners? More polite? More compassionate? More empathetic?
I can’t answer that. My students are a constant work in progress. I can never really know what they take away from their time in my room.
What I do know is that, in my room, while I was there, that when I was consistent with the rule, I saw them consistently listening to try to understand. To understand me, each other, a song, a video clip, a visitor. It created a calmer atmosphere and a more patient one. Some students, and some classes were clearly better at it than others. But we always tried.
Listen, with respect, in order to understand.
Not look at a phone, a note, a book, scribble, draw, brush hair, do make up, finish homework, communicate with a neighbor or a million other options.
Not with impatience, frustration, anger or judgement.
Not in order to get the response I want.
Not in order to say the response I have planned.
Not in order to “fake” being interested.
Not in order to see who “gets it” and who doesn’t.
Not because it’s someone’s turn to answer.
Only to understand.
Listen, with respect, in order to understand. As often as posslble.