Teacher Tip – Learning from your Students in the Classroom or Community

Following on from last week’s article¬†we wanted to continue the theme of learning as a teacher. This time, how can a teacher learn from their students in the classroom or community?

Why is non-collaborative teaching a problem?

We are currently in Liverpool, working with students at the Speke Community Centre and Speke Adventure Playground on behalf of Young Persons’ Opportunities Project. Many of the children and young people we work with are from disadvantaged backgrounds or in the NEET Category (not in education, employment or training). Often students from this demographic can be resistant to new teachers. Though renowned as a common problem for substitute and new teachers, even the most seasoned can encounter this challenge with new students. While each different age and demographic respond to different strategies, there is one thing I have found always makes getting a group on side much easier – respect. When you enter a classroom with the mindset that you are the teacher and you know better, you are disregarding the students experiences and prior knowledge. If you are entering a class that is already established, the students can teach you everything you need to know about each other – if you are willing to listen. Do not try to impose yourself and your way of doing things upon a group. The group are much more likely to become obstructive if they do not feel that they are being respected. Why should they respect you?

What strategies should you use to build mutual respect?

1. Try to get to know the students.

Who are they? What do they like? Getting to know your students informally helps them to trust you. They will reveal a lot to you about their group dynamics and personalities. When you have a lot to get through, time constraints can make informal conversation feel like a waste of time. However, taking ten minutes at the start of class to break down barriers can ensure the students learn much more throughout the session.

2. Discover how the students learn.

What do they know? How do they learn? When you discuss their interests and prefered learning styles, you can form a better idea of how to engage the students while ensuring you do not repeat old subjects. Their prefered learning techniques can sometimes be something you’d never have thought of. Listening to the students about what is successful for them can add more to your own arsenal.

3. Be adaptable in the way that you teach.

Work with the students and allow the learning to be collaborative. Different students learn in different ways. When you are open to listening to the students, you can discover a way to engage them more effectively and teach them much more! Mutual respect with young people can help in a variety of situations. Check back next week for tips on how to gain respect while directing children in the theatre environment.

Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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