It's good to be reminded of this tenant of human communication as I was while reading this article. During my orientation at High Tech High we discussed how everyone wants to do well, and behavior that traditionally is understood as problematic or rebellious can be better interpreted as communication. After hearing thinking on that idea, I looked inward.
In my first few weeks of teaching I was sensitive to my behavior and choices surrounding my interactions with students. When was I visibly excited? Frustrated? What did I dedicate most of our class time doing? By examining these things I could determine what I was communicating to my class and what I was showing them to be important to me or unimportant.
In a similar way I can look at my students working habits and behaviors and derive some kind of communication. A large percentage of my class fails to submit an assignment on time. I must not be giving clear directions or displaying due dates effectively. Quality of project work is low. I must not be showing students how to take details seriously. The class is loud and inattentive. I must not be building a culture of respect for others or emphasizing the importance of listening when someone else has something to share.
I still believe that everyone, students included, wants to do well. Nobody wants to be the one rushing to finish everything at the last minute or the person who gets called out during class for something. There are other motivations behind these behaviors and reasons why people choose to do or not to do things. By examining the causes of these behaviors I can shape my practice to respond to them as forms of communication and see these actions as gifts of insight rather than fires to put out.
For my final project in this class I wanted to study strategies for making groups in school that are as fair as possible. In my class I've made groups using a variety of methods but successes and failures of each led me to wonder if there was a strategy that made groups that were balanced and fair to students of all styles of learning. In my research I found that by combining both a random approach and one which takes into account the input of students a fair system can be established.
Many of my friends who teach also listen to podcasts. Because teachers are the ones who most likely will benefit from this information I decided to document and share what I learned by making a podcast. I learned about the topic but also how to make and share a podcast. In the future I hope to document what I've learned and develop a guide for teachers who want to make podcasts.
The podcast can be found on my website at philipestrada.org/podcast
My class has two more weeks to finish our project. It's a complex build between groups of 3 and 4 that requires lots of planning and revision and detailed work. Each of the students in the groups also have commitments to other projects that they are involved in and often the building portion of the project gets forgotten. It's common for me to find a student meandering and ask them how much they have left to do on their building project and they'll almost have forgotten all about that aspect of it.
Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.