Who Teaches Who?

Listen is a verb that is defined by the following four criteria from Dictionary.com;

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to  ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for  ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
Let’s examine the first two:
1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; head; obey.
A teacher, and really anyone who has had experience working with a child or group of children knows how hard it is to grab their attention. Whether you are trying to show a child something, or teach them a basic formula for the Math test on Friday, children and teens struggle with the ability to pay attention. This is not something that has just developed, but rather it is something that has been going on in the schools for years. Teachers often ask; “why aren’t my students paying attention to my awesome lesson plan?” or “why aren’t my students interested in what I am saying?”
4005631298_50241b41abThere is a big problem that is occurring in our schools today and the problem is listening.  The students however, are not the only ones guilty of the crime. Sadly, the teachers also share some of the guilt. If you are a teacher or have had some experience working with a children or teens in a school setting I want you to ask yourself, do you listen to your students? If the answer is yes, then I am sure you have no difficulties in your classroom and should probably stop reading this post. If you’re not sure of the answer, consider this. If you aren’t listening to the wants and needs of your students, why should they listen to you? Teachers are paid to stand in front of the room and deliver lectures and present lessons to the entire class, but the students aren’t getting paid to go to school. Why would they listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to understand their educational needs and desires? Why listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know them?
This my friends, is what I want to fix in my classroom, and I might have a solution to the problem.
I believe that learning is an individualized process for every student, and not all students learn the same way. Even though I am eventually going to be paid for standing in front of my own classroom and talk about my lesson plans, I will be talking to a brick wall if my students have no interest or desire to learn anything from me because there is no teacher-student connection and they are doing the same exact things over and over again every year. Once that occurs, why teach? What is the point of teaching if all we do is follow in our ancestors foot steps having them complete the same assignments, and delivering the same lectures?
Last time I checked, brick walls don’t have ears,
Through all the lesson plans that I have built, the units I have put together and all ideas that flash through my head at night before bed, one question remains the most important. How do I get my students to like me and the way I teach? How do I get them to like learning? The answer: choice, encouragement, acceptance, and a developed professional relationship with each student in my classroom. If my students are able to choose what that want to learn, and are given a variety of options on how to learn that material, who knows what they will be capable of.
Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

This is why I value the ideas and structures of a Writing Workshop when it comes to teaching my students about writing and English. When talking about the “terms and conditions” of teaching writing, there is no set rulebook on how to make all your students the best writers in the world (although how awesome would that be!). Teachers think on their feet, know who their students are, and teach at the level that their students would benefit the most from, in all areas of education. We are not going to create a world where everyone loves English and Literature and Writing; this would be unreal. What we can create is a world full of medical doctors who were able to complete medical school because their medical essays got them the degree, or we can create lawyers who can read case files four hours, making detailed notes as they go along. Writing is not just for English, it is a skill that can be used in all areas of life.
I want my students to have the skills that will provide them with the ability to be flexible writers. Having my students write numerous amounts of book reports, and maybe a biography about themselves and calling that good does not meet Ms. Becca’s teaching standards. If we want our students to be successful writers, then we must give them conditions to where they are writing for a variety of purposes. The book reports, the essays, the letters, poems, journal entries, etc. are all important types of writing that I want to explore with my students in workshop, but those are not the only reasons someone would want to write. The purposes of writing are large; why not take advantage of that and search for those purposes with my students?
Our students are tired of writing poems and essays and book reports. The purposes of writing are becoming so narrow that as teachers, we are not listening to our students and forcing them to have a negative relationship with writing and with learning. I want to avoid this problem in my classroom.
Mr. Becca’s classroom will recognize that learning is fun because I will make it fun! Routine is necessary, and the content will remain somewhat similar, but how I choose to teach the content can be something both new and exciting for my Elementary students. Book reports can become short, fictional stories, analysis papers can become poems, and research papers can become letters if we so desire. Learning doesn’t have to be a negative, boring journey. Learning can be fun, exciting and thrilling if we as teachers can make it happen!

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