Check This Beat

Adjust that dial, and tune into your student's frequency.

Photo of Tiffany Smith
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There's a lot of noise in our classrooms.  No, I'm not referring to student chatter.  As an ESOL teacher, I frequently encourage my students to speak up, and enjoy tuning in to the conversations I hear in both English and Spanish.  However, I realized recently that I wasn't listening.  Not REALLY.  All too often, I have my own agenda, and I plow forward sometimes with bulldozer-like precision.  I help my kids master new vocabulary ~ Check.  I help my kids comprehend a story that they need to know ~ Double Check. Those things are super important too, don't get me wrong, but sometimes a student shows up on our roster that is on a totally different frequency. 

I had a third grade student who was constantly "disrupting" my class.  We'll call him "G."  G's classmates and I were always shushing him while he was rapping, and singing popular music under his breath while doing his work.  I had been warned that G had a lot of anger issues, and didn't always get along with with his teachers and peers.  One day, while I was watching my students working collaboratively (as well as G frustratedly shoving his graphic organizer and pencil across the table), I really NOTICED his musical ability. That's when the shift started.  Instead of trying to look at the story we were focusing on from my perspective, which was boring as heck, I turned it into a rap.  "Mornin', Friends! Check THIS beat. I'm gonna tell ya 'bout my Castle on Viola Street... ."  Seeing G's face light up was absolutely priceless.  After I taught my kids the rap, they did a cloze activity, where they had to fill in the blanks.  They could rap while they wrote for maximum recall.  I had never seen G write like that before!  He truly shined, and rapped his work back to me with the biggest-smile-ever on his face.  He even went back to his regular classroom that day and proudly rapped his work for his peers and teacher there as well.  

That experience had a profound impact on me as a teacher.  I'm more aware now to look beyond the noise, the disruptions, the frustrations, and really pay attention to what my students are telling me that they need.  You may have a kid constantly jumping up out of their seat who is a brilliant dancer!  

Groove with it.


[Optional] Synthesize a little! What's one take away or insight to leave people with?

Turn down the noise, and really tune in.

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Photo of Erin Quinn

It's so simple, isn't it? Just get to know the kids. That's it. I wonder how we might do this more purposefully?

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