Genuine and caring relationships are powerful in service of student academic progress. The most difficult students need relationships more than others. Does this task feel daunting? What about holding troubled students accountable? Read on to learn how to use reflective listening to help build relationships and hold students accountable.
What is Reflective Listening?
The basic idea behind reflective listening is that you listen well enough to someone else that you can repeat back to them what they said. It shows that you're listening and also helps you understand their perspective, helps them clarify their thinking, and helps build trust by letting them feel heard.
How to Listen Reflectively
Many students, especially those that are in trouble a lot, may not feel truly heard very often. When they're upset, it's usually hard for them to communicate well. By listening well enough that you can recap what the student said and help them understand what they're saying, they will most likely feel a sense of safety and trust with you. Now, if you have a deceitful student who is not very keen on the "facts" and, instead, does some lying, feel free to triangulate/corroborate their story. Do this by listening to them first in a reflective manner and then bring other folks in who were part of the situation to see other perspectives. If you're hoping to build a relationship, be careful with corroboration. You don't want to play "gotcha" here. Instead, as I said, listen to their whole story, help them communicate with others who were involved, and work with the multiple points of view to get a clear story and problem solve. Give them the benefit of the doubt, if you can. It will help them to feel trusted, even if they're bending the truth.
What about Time?!
Yes, this takes time, but it's not something you need to do very often or with lots of students. The most difficult students need your time the most. Using reflective listening with them and focusing on other relationship building strategies is a huge investment to mitigate future problems.
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My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.