How do you address a challenging working relationship with your co-op? While student teaching is a learning experience, a student teacher is also providing an important service to a classroom and working closely with those institutions' students (as a principal once said, "the most prized possessions of parents"). I found it helpful to think about active listening skills that were shared with me by a previous professor when navigating tough conversations.
Identify your purpose for listening. Most of the time a student teacher is listening to learn information. Believe it or not listening takes energy and requires attention.
Try not to assume you know what will be said before it is stated. Avoid making prior judgments about the amount of resistance or approval you will get from someone. Try to exercise patience and, even if you think you know what will be said, allow your co-op to finish.
Monitor your listen through feedback. Ask clear and thoughtful questions then allow your co-op to repeat, explain for clarify his or her message. Keep in mind that you are ½ of the process and your reactions to the content help supply positive communication.
Listen for the speaker's purpose. It could be stated or unstated purpose. Try to focus on what your co-op states as a purpose rather than what you have supposed is his or her purpose.
Don't yield to distractions. Our lives (and yes, classrooms at times) can be loud and confusing but that fact is not a convenient excuse for not listening. Try to reduce the noise and adjust to the listening environment if at all possible or select a time that is more conducive to a productive conversation.
Take notes! If it is appropriate and will not be distracting to your co-op, make a few notes as you listen. Hopefully, having something in writing will help you organize and frame your co-op's thoughts. You can also reference that document at a later point in time.
Ashley Reichenbach, M.A.
Assistant Director, Twardowski Career Development Center
West Chester University of Pennsylvania