Frank Thoms

The Partnership Classroom

Jun 17, 2023 by Frank Thoms

This one word can bring a new paradigm to the social studies classroom, where I was a teacher. A teacher who chooses conversation to engage her students shifts away from one-way teaching. She considers her classroom to be a partnership. She arranges her room so students can see one another and not the backs of heads. She listens as much, or more, than talks. Students begin to listen to their peers. Teacher and students generate new ideas. Students leave class remembering something instead of having to go home to learn from their notes what the teacher was talking about.

A simple concept yet difficult to implement. A myriad of pressures interfere: from superintendents, principals, board members, state and federal agencies, department heads, standardized tests, parents, political critics, and others. So how can teachers bring conversation into their classrooms? One approach is to close the door and start talking with students. Ask them questions. Listen to their thoughts. Debate respectfully.

Put away phones (except when teaching them how to use them). Help them discover the joy of face-to-face conversation. Teach them to have eye contact, pay attention to voice tone, and to listen. Parents can do the same at home. Reconstitute the family dinner if they haven’t had them without phones for both children and adults!

Students will be grateful for the partnership classroom in all subjects and so too teachers. The relief from the phones’ attention grabbing will unmeasurable. Learning to have conversation may take time but will be well worth it.


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