There are many teacher skills that are commonly well-known. Planning, Reviewing and Interpreting data and communication are just a few. However, we believe that teachers are leaders. The term classroom management refers to the ability of a teacher to execute lesson plans that produce desired results while also minimizing interruptions. The term is widely accepted, but I believe that there is a better one. It’s called, “Classroom Leadership.” There is a distinct difference between management and leadership. Managers follow a formula to produce intended results. Leaders empower others to achieve those results by investing in them. In order to lead effectively in the classroom, teachers must grow and evolve in the area of leadership. As a result, there is s one teacher skill that significantly boosts a teachers’ effectiveness and influence. That skill is: The ability to listen first. Great classroom leaders listen first because they want to be sure to get the perspective of their students. This makes a huge difference. Rudduck and McIntyre (2007) reported:
Consulting students enhances student commitment and capacity for learning through strengthening self-esteem, enhancing attitudes toward school and learning, developing a stronger sense of membership, developing new skills for learning, and transforming teacher-student relationships from passive and oppositional to more active and collaborative.
Here are some ideas on how you can eventually master this teacher skill to build a great community and improve student outcomes:
Create student committees
Meet with a group of student in each of your classes with the purpose of getting feedback and input. These students can speak for themselves as well as their classmates. As students realize you take their voice and ideas seriously, they will invest more and enjoy the experience of being in your class.
Schedule individual feedback sessions
Be intentional about making time to meet with students individually to give them feedback. This is challenging, but an important step to build community. It is also an opportunity to understand how the thinking of your students may affect their performance or experience in your classroom.
Add a non-verbal way for students to make suggestions
Some students prefer not to speak face-to-face. An email, text or suggestion box may be something they are more comfortable with.
During a disagreement over correction, give the student the first opportunity to speak
Many students immediately become defensive when they are being corrected. Neutralize any potential back and forth argument by giving the student a reasonable amount of time to be heard first (preferably in a private place). When it is your chance to speak, point out your observations and how those observations resulted in the need to have a conversation regarding correction. Students are more likely to accept correction when they feel like they have been heard and weren’t immediately judged without the ability to explain especially if they feel there is a valid explanation.
In what ways do you incorporate student voice and challenge yourself to Listen First? What other teacher skills do you believe are important? Please share in the comments section.