Have you really ever tried to listen? Not just attend to. Not just look at, nod the head and verbalize an affirmative to someone. To really listen you have to consider what is being said, try to understand from the others point of view what the issues are. This is hard. Hard for anyone who deals with as many people as educators do on a daily basis, but it is essential. If we do not listen, we do not know where we are, and if we do not know where we are, we have no idea how to get to where it is we are going. Today my goal was to listen. I had a few failures where I got caught up in how the story affected me and had to react. I ended up following one teacher and apologizing for not listening and in the end I think we learned a little bit about each other. It was a good thing. In a couple of other instances I heard teachers who are struggling with their art. I say art because I consider these two teachers artists. They command their craft in such a way that they create as they teach. As artists they create learning situations for their students that are born of experience and a deep understanding that they teach students, not a subject. I will not go into details about their stories, but I will say that these two teachers are canaries. Ones that need to be watched when they are struggling because it is likely there is something foul spoiling the environment in the building because they normally do not have a hard time with teaching on a daily basis. It could be the fact that we have had a really disjointed second semester with six snow days in the last two weeks, or it could be that we have not seen the sun since October (seems that way anyway).  There may be lots of reasons for what I observed today, the one thing I know is that I sure need to spend more time listening when I can. Solutions in education leadership are not usually easy to come up with, but they are impossible to fashion if you do not know there is a problem. What I have learned by listening is that I need to listen more.

4 thoughts on “Listening

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  2. It’s easy to be quick to respond, or hear what we want to hear, or listen for what we want to counter. It’s much harder to reflect, digest, and simmer in what makes us potentially uncomfortable. Real listening requires us to move beyond ourselves. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I like this post a lot Dave! I think I’ve learned through mistakes that listening is a huge part of leadership. Really hearing what others are saying and fighting the temptation to formulate an answer. Listening gets hard when interpretation is involved; words might not match non-verbal clues.

    Two other things I’ve learned that I think go along with listening. The first is silence. Allowing the proverbial pregnant pause allows both people in a conversation to process. This is especially effective if eye contact is maintained. It shows (authentically) that you are in the moment, that you are thinking, and that there are no easy answers. The second is asking more questions, even when I might think I know the answer. This allows others to play an active role in the conversation as opposed to being told.

    Anyway, listening, silence, and questions have been my biggest leadership lessons over the years. Thanks for a great post!


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