Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Tips for Productive Student-Initiated Conversations

Initiating a conversation with a teacher can be a very difficult thing for many students.  Any number of fears and concerns can emerge as the student struggles to make his or her point.  Students can find their these attempts frustrating and leave feeling as if their teacher "doesn't understand them."

Here are three tips for students that can help their conversations with teachers go more smoothly.

1.  Questions or concerns about YOU are best addressed away from the group setting of class.

Ask the teacher if you can stay after class or for a time when you can have her full attention.  Unless the class is engaged in an exercise that allows the teacher to spend time one-on-one with you, respectfully asking for time away from the group puts both you and the teacher in a better position to be effective.  

2.  Make your intentions clear to the teacher.

After thanking the teacher for her time, your next sentence should establish exactly why you need the time.  I often advise students to begin with something like, "I appreciate you taking this time to talk with me.  I really want to do better on this unit.  I also know that I haven;t been very cooperative lately.  I want to change that and prove to you that I want to learn this topic."

3.  Ask the teacher to be more specific.

This tip usually follows #2 because teachers and students often have different definitions of unspecific terms.  For example, the teacher may tell the student that he would benefit from making a better effort in class.  Upon hearing this, the student needs to ask the teacher clarifying questions such as, "I know that I need to work harder, but can you give me a few examples of specific behaviors that would communicate to you that I am putting forth the effort you expect?"

In the end, the conversations between student and teacher can make a huge impact on student achievement and teacher frustration.  Students who approach their teacher with a plan that includes the three items described above place themselves in a good position to get the guidance they are seeking.

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