Watch and Listen!

Taking the time to listen and watch students during the first few weeks helps educators understand their students' character and interests.

Photo of Stephanie Bartlett
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Who: Educators

What: Sitting down to listen and map out relationships is time well spent in the classroom. Reflecting later on the conversations that I recorded helps me to better understand my students and get a window into their interests and the way they interact with their peers. This provides a strong foundation for the collaborative culture that we build throughout the year together.

Where: I sketch and map anywhere that we spend our time together as a class. We do a lot of learning outside in nature, as well as around the school.

When: When students are busy working or playing, take a few minutes to sit quietly. Teach students that when they see you journaling, you are working as if you are busy helping a student and will be with them shortly. This sounds impossible (and sometimes it is!) but when inspiration hits, do it!! 

Why: establishing a positive classroom environment based on respect is not new. Establishing a culture of collaboration and trust with the intent to develop the mindset of design thinking is different. The more you can learn right away about what makes everyone tick, the faster you can teach students to build trust and work together. 

We begin each day with smiles and a greeting. Care is taken to model positive language and actions during play and large group activities. Early in the year, we focus on the question: 
What does learning look like in our classroom? Students are learning that we have an indoor classroom and we often learn outside too. Wherever we learn, we can learn to collaborate.

Adaptability:  Record the information and use it as a teacher designer. After a couple of practices, I began to listen with intention, with my antennae up for curricular and character content. How might I use student conversations to inform my planning? What tools/advice can I offer students in this moment to deepen their thinking/work/interactions? This knowledge from the listening can be applied to individual learning stories in student learner profiles or to look mainly  at the classroom culture.

Scaleability: This is a technique for the educator that is flexible and portable for any grade level. The conversations and interactions will vary from Kindergarten to grade 12. 

Potential for impact:  How do we treat each other in our classroom? This is a question that helps form the foundation of collaboration.

I am often present, listening, so that I can facilitate relationships and learning. This has ignited a deeper passion for building character in our classroom culture. The characteristics of grit, curiosity, determination and empathy are already there in our students. Bring them to the surface and link them together to help develop confident and unique learners who recognize each others' strengths. 


Join the conversation:

Photo of Garreth Heidt

I'm intrigued by how you're actually modeling the kind of ethnographic research designers engage in.  In the classes I used to teach at the Middle School level, keen observation was a skill I taught through sketching, listening, and using photography.  I can only imagine what's going through your student's heads as they watch you watching them.  How wonderful.  Were I a student, I'd be like, "Can I do that, too?"  And're on your way!

Photo of Erin Quinn

Garreth Heidt I love this thought. One of my faaaaavourite things is when I model something and my kids say "Can I do that too??" Love it.

Photo of Garreth Heidt

I know...I used to get that so much more in MS and Elem.  Now, at the HS, I'm watching kids and saying..."Hey, can I do that, too?"  (Especially with technology!)

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