Thursday, July 28, 2005

Teachers should listen to their students – they might learn something

This morning I had the good fortune to spend an hour with students participating in the STEP program. STEP is an acronym for summer transition program. The program is organized by AU’s office of multicultural affairs.

In organizing an delivering my talk, I did something I never would have done, even five years ago. I spent about half the time connecting with this group of about 40 young men and women by simply asking them about themselves and then listening. I found out that virtually all of them hoped to be married and have children, though there were a couple of strong dissenters. A sizable number – the largest group – hoped to become lawyers. (They were surprised when I told them that in my experience, lawyers were the most dissatisfied with their professional life in mid career). They hated the statistics course they had been compelled to take even though they found the teacher congenial. They simply could not understand him. There was much more.

Then I shared myself – briefly – both my personal and professional life.

When we had finished these interactions we were ready to communicate. They could ask me questions in areas where they know I was interested and I could respond substantively. Questions ranged from my thoughts on the Kashmir conflict in India/Pakistan, to whether it was safe to travel in the Punjab, to my children’s professional lives, to my wife’s interests, to life in the “dorms”. It was a great discussion.

I often participate in discussions about “what students are feeling” and “what students are thinking” and “what students want”. Often no students have been invited to participate in the conversation.

Finding out what students feel, think and want is a foundation of good teaching, which requires communication, connection, empathy and mutual respect.

How does one find out what students feel, think and want? You simply have to ask them and, then, be willing to listen.


Post a Comment

<< Home