Sharon Rendon, Coaching Coordinator
Everyday we have multiple conversations with people. All types of communication happen with our families, friends, colleagues, supervisors, and students. The many types of conversations that happen from teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, and student-to-student are the lifeblood of any school. In order to improve our classrooms and schools, we must improve our ability to communicate.
We can learn how to coach others and ourselves on how to become better communicators. In Jim Knight’s new book, Better Conversations, he lays out six beliefs and ten habits of better communication.
The six beliefs are:
- I see others as equal partners in conversations.
- I believe people should have a lot of autonomy.
- I want to hear what others have to say.
- I do not judge my conversation partners.
- Conversation should be back and forth.
- Conversation should be life-giving.
The ten habits include:
- Demonstrate Empathy
- Foster Dialogue
- Ask Better Questions
- Make Emotional Connections
- Be a Witness to the Good
- Find Common Ground
- Control Toxic Emotions
- Redirect Toxic Conversations
- Build Trust
Although all these beliefs and habits are important to better conversations, the two beliefs, I want to hear what others have to say and Conversation should be back and forth, stand out as having a direct impact on our work in creating student centered mathematics classrooms. Those beliefs are tied directly to developing the important habit of listening. As a teacher there is no more important habit to develop than the ability to truly listen to our students and to teach students to listen to each other within teams and whole class conversations. Additionally, as we work with our colleagues, coaches, and administrators, the ability to listen will greatly increase the effectiveness of our efforts.
The use of study team strategies and modeling for our students will help develop the listening habit in our students as well. When you plan your lessons, make sure to include opportunities to hear what students have to say. Be intentional about allowing the student voice to be heard in your classroom during the work time. When you think of the mathematical goal or practice for the lesson, find ways to highlight the math or standard for mathematical practice during the closure portion of the lesson.
When the pressure of “covering content” rises its ugly head, and you are tempted to revert to a teaching by telling method, battle against that habit. Stay committed to hearing what your students have to say through exploring the problems in study teams.
When working with your colleagues, think of how you can ask more thoughtful questions and then simply listen. If we have the belief that we see others as equals, then we want to hear what they have to say. We can learn from them and the conversation will be better because everyone involved created it.
As we examine our beliefs about conversations and then reflect on our actions, we are able to identify inconsistencies. Then we have the powerful ability to create an actionable goal to initiate change in ourselves. Take some time to consider those beliefs and habits and choose one to work on improving over the next semester.