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A Teacher on 'Listening' Rather Than 'Disciplining'

Listening closely to students, especially to those with disciplinary issues, can transform the teacher-student relationship, according to Sarah Camiscoli, a literacy-intervention teacher for English-language learners at a small public middle school in the South Bronx.

When Camiscoli moved away from disciplining to listening and trying to gain a greater understanding of her students' needs, they started staying in the classroom and participating more, she wrote recently in Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization that covers educational efforts and policy in several communities, including New York, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee.

Camiscoli says that, during her first year as a teacher, she sought out training programs like Teachers United, an organization of public school educators in New York City working to counter the school-to-prison pipeline. The meetings with Teachers Unite encouraged her to transform her classroom into a supportive community. She also gained new methods of dealing with students.

I held conferences instead of writing up detentions and (when I was able to) facilitated mediations instead of calling the deans. If I listened closely during these moments, I began to hear what my students were saying: how I hadn't been mindful, how I hadn't recognized certain requests, and what I could do to restore our relationship moving forward.

Teachers should try to listen to what their students feel and need, especially if they are having disciplinary problems, Camiscoli said. She writes that they will benefit if they can redefine the relationship:

We need to seek additional training to help us understand the ways our own limitations can lead students to feel like they don't belong at school ... Students need new teachers to take the time to find fairer, more comprehensive, and effective models to engage them.
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