Ever hear a news story about a horrible bullying episode that had gone on for months and wondered where the teachers were? I am not sure what they were doing, but I can almost promise you I know what they weren’t doing. They weren’t listening to their students.
Teachers are surrounded by students – often large numbers of them for hours a day. Even volunteer teachers may feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talking coming from their students before, after and even during class time.
The natural response is often to shut out the noise. Kids tend to talk over one another and switch topics rapidly. At any given time, there may be half a dozen or more conversations going on simultaneously in your class. It’s easy to understand how many adults learn to ignore all of the chatter and retreat into their own thoughts.
The problem is some of the most valuable information you will ever learn about your students can be captured from listening to them talk. Kids and teens are often very honest with their peers and sometimes not honest at all. They may reveal problems, concerns, worries or things about which they are excited. They may be chatting about what they didn’t understand in your lesson or complaining about something you do when teaching which is hampering their learning.
The next time you have class, really listen to the conversations your students have. Not to be nosy or to get material for a gossip session. Rather listen to seek to really know your students. Try to glimpse their hearts from what they say. If you sense a problem, lovingly jump into the conversation and ask questions.
Hopefully, listening to your students won’t reveal any bullying, but if it does, you can jump in and stop the damage. The other information may help you pick new Bible lessons or principles to share with your students. It may provide you an opportunity to support a student outside of class. It may give you a chance to reflect God’s love to the families of your students. It will almost assuredly help you be a better teacher. Teachers who really know their students have a much better chance of teaching in ways which will really touch the hearts and minds of those children or teens.
So the next time you have class, make sure you put on your listening ears. It may change your class in ways you could never imagine.