Responding to Eavesdropping

I am an eavesdropper.

My students exist in small groups of varying English proficiency. Because I have such a high population of CLD (Culturally and Linguisticlly Diverse) students, I’ve found that many have more confidence when they’re allowed the opportunity to verbally process (not to mention that they learn more from each other before than they do from me. You know how it is), and people in their small groups encourage more shy members of the class to participate.

So where this post comes from:

At the beginning of the semester I typically have a difficult time convincing students to talk to each other (instead of me, the authority) about where they are in their learning. They’d rather right/wrong confirmation. And I get that. I see it with graduate students as well. I think it stems from being schooled to fear failure in an educational setting.

So today, I ask my students to talk in their guilds (small groups of three). As is my custom, I walk around eavesdropping on their conversations. From across the room I hear a student say something (I can’t remember now what was said), and I respond. She hollers back at me:

Miss, I’m talking to my guild, not to you!

I laugh. I laugh because she uses the language of the game that is our class. I laugh because she is completely justifed in her response — she was doing exactly what I asked her to do. And I laugh because she feels comfortable enough with the environment we’ve created in our classroom to correct me.

I want my students to correct me. I want them to feel that I am not the end-all-be-all when it comes to information — that the experiences they have and the lives they live are as valid anecdotal evidence to draw from and connect to as mine is.

And it seems like they get it.

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