My juniors have just finished a unit about living the beatitudes, unconditional love, and faith through the book, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The instructional time was set up with discussion homework questions completed for each section of the book at home, viewing a section of the real interview with Morrie during class, and then thirty minutes of group discussions. I reassigned the groups each day, to give students a chance to hear lots of different opinions and experiences. Then the students shared with the entire class. I kept this class structure for five different lessons. At the end of it all they turned in an essay about the book that counted as their test grade for the book. They were also graded on their questions, group discussions, and sharing with the class.
Today, was the last day of the group discussions. I gave time for each student to comment about the group dynamics. Each day a different leader was chosen to lead each group. I asked the students for feedback about the experiences they had as leaders and participants within the groups. It is imperative that they learn the skills needed to collaborate well in school, workplace, and in their own families. Some of the feedback on how to lead were comments like…
- A leader needs to respect everyone in the group
- A good leader reads the entire question and then models the answer with personal experiences
- Leaders should actively listen to the participants
- A good leader is able to engage each member of the group
- A leader needs to help refocus the conversation back to the topic at hand
Feedback about group dynamics
- Group members should respect the leader
- Each group member needs to listen to the person talking
- Everyone has to be open to different opinions even if they do not agree with them and be sensitive to the differences
- Group members should help the leaders by refocusing and not having side conversations that take away from the group
- Group members should have the courage to share their stories with people they don’t know and trust the other members.
Listening, redirecting, respecting, sharing, and being open are some of the most important elements I think my students learned from this learning environment. I know that many of my students shared deeply personal experiences and stories with one another. They talked about death with other teens, that is unusual to their culture. There were tears shed, and students comforting, and reaffirming other’s beliefs. There were ideas that were challenged but accepted, and there was so much respect that I was in awe at times. They made me proud. I hope that something in the book touched each one of their souls. I also hope that the group experiences taught them how to work within a group and it will aid them in future classrooms, organizations, workplaces, and family relationships. Group dynamics are important lessons to learn, you realize this when you go to meetings that are poorly run. Hopefully my students will be the ones running meetings that people walk away saying wow, that was an excellent meeting!