Have you ever had someone truly listen to you?
You know what I mean.
When you feel the other person is really hearing what you say: they are looking at you and nodding, asking relevant questions to show they are really interested.
You feel that they value your opinion and are willing to stop the chatter in their own head to hear you.
If you have ever experienced this you will know what a seductive feeling it can be.
That person really understands the importance of listening.
As teachers we recognise the importance of listening both in learning and as a vital social skill. Our job is to listen to our students and teach them how to listen.
1. Model effective listening for your students and insist on one person speaking at a time either in whole class discussions, paired or group work. Demonstrate the skill to the class (draw attention to your listening with younger grades, have older grades deconstruct what effective listening looks like, sounds like, feels like).
2. Use effective listening to find out about your students and build positive relationships. In high school where you may teach up to 150 students use memory tricks, refer to school photos or take notes so you can use the knowledge in further conversations with students.
3. Give students a voice. For the issues that impact them i.e. their learning, their assessment, their classroom, their school values students need to feel heard and understood. They will more readily accept the status quo if they feel they have had a voice.
4. Listen to students when managing inappropriate behaviour. Listening to what students think and feel about the tasks they are asked to complete and the way they are being taught can give you clues as to your effectiveness as a teacher and how you could change things to more effectively support student learning. John Hattie cites feedback to teachers as having one of the highest effects on student achievement.
5. Explicitly teach the skill of listening (yes those acronyms do help). Break it down into components for students and then practise, (use role play, make posters, drammtise etc.) and reinforce students for using the skill appropriately.
6. Use reflective listening to defuse tricky situations. Saying ‘Joey I can see you are upset (disappointed, frustrated, sad) validates a student’s feelings, provides the language to describe the feelings and can help to reduce the intensity of the feelings allowing the student to move forward.
7. Listen to parents. Parents are the child’s first teachers and you can glean valuable knowledge and tips from them. Use parent teacher interviews as fact finding missions and be prepared for the gems of information you can gather.