While large meetings and grand symbolic actions play a part, the most significant change in work culture is accomplished in one-to-one personal interactions. (Sagor, 1992, p. 18)
I do enjoy our faculty meetings and our other large group gatherings, but I understand Sagor’s emphasis on individualized interactions playing a key role in the success of any work culture, including school buildings and individual classrooms. This is applicable as we work with each other and as we work with our students and parents. One of the primary skills we must possess in order to establish positive interpersonal relations is the seemingly simple skill of listening. It is of paramount importance that we listen: to our students, our parents, and—perhaps most notably—to each other. As important as it is for us to be active listeners, it is equally important that our students do likewise. Highlight the following aspects of effective listening in your own practice and in teaching your students to listen:
- Make eye contact.
- Give your undivided attention.
- Send nonverbal signals that you are interested and that you care. For example, don’t shuffle papers or continue writing when someone is with you.
- Be able to restate or paraphrase what is being said when appropriate.
- Don’t interrupt. Even though this may happen to us, guard against sending the message that you do not have time to listen. (McEwan, 2003)
The more we listen, the more we learn. Listening often allows us to quell erumpent conflicts. Moreover, through engaged listening, we have the opportunity to put into practice a central theme of a popular book, To Kill a Mockingbird. In this classic novel by Harper Lee, Atticus often stresses to his daughter, Scout, the importance of seeing things from the other person’s perspective. By effectively listening to others, we enable ourselves to really know another person, thereby improving our little world, however slightly. Encourage your students to engage in the above listening techniques.
At times, we become so overwhelmed that making the time to truly listen gets shortchanged. I know that I am often guilty of this myself. Thanks for listening to our students, our parents, and each other. Thanks also for letting me know if and when I am not doing the same.
Have a great weekend.