There was lots of feedback that I received when I was in the Faculty of Education. One piece of advice though really stuck with me during my placements, and now, 14 years later, during all of my teaching positions. I can still remember the day that I received this feedback. I was finishing my placement in Kindergarten, and my faculty advisor came for a visit. I was facilitating a small group activity, where students were digging out various pumpkins and gourds and making their own shakers. As I asked questions to the group, I couldn’t help but repeat the answers shared by the students. During our debriefing, my faculty advisor offered this advice: resist the urge to repeat what students say. If you keep repeating their comments, students are going to stop listening to each other, and only listen to you. This advice made a lot of sense, and it’s something that I’m still striving to do to this day.
It’s hard. I always find the urge to repeat statements. Maybe it’s because students can sometimes be so quiet when they share with the group. Maybe it’s because I make sense of the comments when I say them aloud. Maybe it’s because I hope to expand on what students said and make connections to the big ideas and/or areas of focus. But when I always repeat what students say, then they also only look to me: as the person with the answers, as the most important voice in the room, and as the person that controls the conversation. Oral language includes the ability to speak, but also, to listen. I want students to see the value in listening and learning from each other, as well as from me.
With this in mind, I’m trying hard to avoid being the “echo.”
- Sometimes I ask questions for clarification.
- Sometimes I ask other students to repeat what they heard.
- Sometimes I add to the discussion.
- Sometimes I encourage students to expand on the ideas shared.
- And sometimes I forget, and repeat comments, but then I try hard the next day to not do so again.
I wonder the impact on learning if students hear us less and hear their peers more. I wonder if this will also help students gain a better appreciation for the combined knowledge in the room — learning that it’s not just adults that have all of the answers or need to have the final word. Do you avoid repeating comments that students make? Why or why not? What impact, if any, do you see this having on the classroom learning environment? I’d love to hear about your experiences as I continue to “resist repetition.”