I read a brief article from the publication The Master Teacher (Volume 48, No. 24), a series of professional development brochures that administrators and teachers can sign up to receive throughout the school year. This particular brochure talked about the importance of teaching listening skills. The article titled, Teaching Students a Neglected Life and Literacy Skill, had me reflecting on my own listening skills. Yes, we often teach the importance of reading, writing and speaking, but the listening skills are often taken for granted—and we can do something about that.
There are a number of strategies that we can use with students on a daily basis to improve our listening skills and make our teaching more effective for them.
- Stop and make time to listen. You may have heard the expression, “be fully present”. This is particularly important in listening to others. It’s necessary to block out all the distractions and the noise around you. People can tell when you are fully present.
- Make eye contact. You don’t need to stare at the person every minute, however strong eye contact shows you are paying attention and care about what the other person is talking about.
- Practice empathy. Taking another’s position or point of view is difficult for us sometimes. By simply putting yourself in their shoes for a while, you can get a feel for what they are expressing and more importantly, why they feel this way. This is missing in lots of the political debates going on right now.
- Ask questions. By asking questions, the listener is gathering more detail to better understand what the other party is saying. Ask questions that are inquisitive, insightful and intelligent—ones that truly help you understand the other person.
Listening has become an even more critical skill in our daily life these days as we are forced to make hundreds of decisions and many times, with little data or little time. Think about your daily conversations with the people around you—do you really use these strategies?
If you focus on being a better listener, good things happen—good luck!
Other resources: Leadership For Teenagers by Carol Carter and Maureen Breeze, 2011, p.125.”