In my first few years in the classroom, I held the notion that the best way to improve as a teacher was to hone my explaining skills. I figured that if I could explain things more clearly, then my students would learn more.
It only took me a few years to realize that this philosophy of personal development was woefully incomplete. (Quick learner, right?!) So I turned my attention to a more noble pursuit: engaging my students.
In version 1 of this approach, I tried to find ways to get my students to pay more attention to my better-than-they-used-to-be explanations. The net result? Nothing much changed.
In version 2, I put my energy into engaging students not with explanations, but with mathematics. I tried—and still try—to create opportunities for students to engage productively with a problem or a concept. As with everything else in my life, it’s a work in progress. But I’ve seen some promising results.
Last week at NCTM, these percolating thoughts combined with several tweets, sessions, and conversations and led to this thought:
The best way to grow as a teacher is to develop my capacity to listen, to hear, to understand.
(Quick aside: I suppose I might replace the word teacher with husband, father, neighbor, colleague, or stranger, and the statement would still hold.)
This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop working on those other skills. But it does mean I have a new passion for learning about listening—really listening—to students and their thinking.
If you know of any books, articles, or blog posts that might help me along, please share them in the comments. Or maybe you disagree with my thoughts above as some combination of wrong or incomplete? I’d love to hear your pushback in the comments as well. Thanks in advance!