Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Negotiating with Students

As teachers (and parents, I assume), we want the children in our lives to be able to negotiate for their rights and privileges. However, when a student at school asks to do something a little differently, they are often met with confrontation and ridicule from their teachers. From my perspective as a special education teacher, I need my students to be able to advocate for themselves and negotiating is a life-long skill that can help them do just that.

Negotiating is a powerful tool to utilize with students. It can be motivating for them to have the power to choose which problems they will be doing. It can be encouraging to them that they do have some choice in how they will do a project. Many times, students are willing to do more than what we ask of them but teachers often limit this when they don't give students the chance to negotiate a deal with them.

Negotiating with students doesn't have to be time consuming. Today, for example, I gave a student a packet of 130 math problems. I asked how many he thought he would be able to do. He told me he would be willing to do 50. 50! How many students do you know that would happily do 50 math problems if that was what was assigned to them? However, when I gave this student the choice of how many problems to do, he was willing to do more than what I would have likely assigned in the first place.

If, in your case, you don't think doing 50 problems is enough, then you begin the negotiating process. This is where you can offer 75 (or more) problems and meet in the middle with your student. What a powerful skill you are truly teaching your students that would have been a lesson missed if you as a teacher were unwilling to negotiate!

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