15 October 2007

Interested vs Interesting

We all want to be interesting, don't we? When it comes to interacting with others, you can have more success in your communications if you are genuinely interested, rather than trying to be interesting.

I watched a film on Saturday night that my daughter recommended to me. "Freedom Writers" was about a young, idealistic teacher who went into a pretty scary school and worked at making it a place of learning for her class. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the end of the movie cause my DVD player wouldn't play the second half, yet what I saw was that her genuine interest in them, won them over, and allowed them to be able to listen to her.

It echoes Stephen Covey's fifth habit, "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood" in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I see a lot of teachers put hours into planning fantastic lessons with students, but until they have built rapport with their class, the most interesting lessons will be hijacked by resentful and uncooperative students. When you show genuine interest in students and come to know them as people, you can take them anywhere, teach them anything. Why didn't anyone tell me that when I was a student-teacher?

When I have focused on trying to be interesting to students I find myself feeling like a one man show. Who can compete with all the amusements available to young people today? If you ask them, they will tell you all kinds of useful things to assist in their learning.

Ironically, I also saw in that movie, her passion for her work, became a priority and she stopped being interested in her partner. So the reverse became true at home. He became resentful and their relationship began to sour. I didn't get to see what happened, but I hope it worked out.

Today in one of my classes a relief teacher had just taught them and I noticed there was a mind map on the whiteboard. It was a subject that class usually complains about and I don't think they really enjoy. I asked them about it and they were positive and enthusiastic about the lesson they'd had. One student said, "He asked us about what we thought, he didn't tell us what to think, it was great, I learnt heaps". I know it's not always practical for teachers to focus on what students think, but if you do it often enough, you can give them something to think about.

It is a mark of respect to listen to another. Before the holidays I read the article about respect and I have been thinking a lot about it. It really resonated with me, yet I have been wondering, who teaches that kind of stuff to teachers. I am mentoring a first year teacher this year, so I am interested in finding ways to share this kind of information. Student management becomes much easier when you have genuine working relationships.


angus said...

That's fascinating, and it sounds like a good movie, striking the balance between life and work I guess.
Thanks for the link, I'll be sure to read that article.

Joh said...

Thanks Angus, I enjoyed it. I really want to see the ending though...