Friday, November 14, 2008

Today, My Job Was to Listen

“Adolescents sometimes say...'My friends listen to me, but my parents only hear me talk.' Often they are right. Familiarity breeds inattention.”
-Laurence Steinberg, U.S. professor of psychology

Dr. Steinberg's words might equally be applied to teachers. We hear our students' voices, but do we ever stop to consider what they are saying?

Today, my job was to listen.

Our Current Events class is made up of teens in grades 9-12. Since the juniors were taking a test today, I gave the remaining 7 students time to finish up assignments, discuss upcoming projects, and just socialize.

One boy started complaining that he wished he were part of our in-house GED program rather than taking regular classes. A few of his friends jumped in to tell him that the course is a lot of work, the exam is difficult, and he'd be crazy not to just stick out school for a few more years. They discussed it for a while, and I believe - I hope - they convinced him to stay put and try to make it work.

None of these young men have been particularly successful academically. They are they same group who shared their anger about a NHS speech that seemed (in their eyes) to disparage them.

Today they used their leadership qualities to help a friend who's in danger of making a bad decision. It was a teachable moment, but I was not the teacher, my students were.

It was one of the best days I've had all year.

"One who cares is one who listens." -Richard Clarke

"listen to me..." by keela84


Anonymous said...

A great gift is to know when to listen, and know when to talk. Great that you choose to listen. i wonder what the ratio is of minutes of teacher talk vs. student talk in classrooms.

diane said...

I've been following your thread on this topic in Plurk.

It appears, from the answers you've received, that MS/HS students are "talked at" more often than "listened to" or, even better, "conversed with."