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.
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.