“Just Listen”

Part of what I gain from educational blogs is reminders, advice, and ideas from others in this profession.  Those blog posts often ground me in something I know is very important, but have been out of practice or routine when it comes to my practice.  I am hoping this post serves as that type of reminder to my fellow educators.  I usually don’t have to think long when deciding what I might post next, it is normally dropped right into my lap.  This week is no exception.


LISTEN to students!

No, not the kind of listening that you hope appeases them as you scroll through your emails.

Really LISTEN.

No, not the kind of listening that is done as you check off your list that you had a conversation with that student.

Take the time to focus and LISTEN.

No, not the kind of listening that as soon as they are in front of you, you have already mentally moved onto the next task.

Use those coaching skills…pause, paraphrase, and probe for understanding as you continue to LISTEN.

No, not the kind where you are just waiting for them to take a breath so you can tell them all about your thinking, ideas, and ways to solve the problem.

LISTEN to that child with the intent, focus, and energy that makes them feel like they are the only one in the world that matters.  After all, that is what they deserve.

I have found that the skill of listening is one that greatly impacts the ability of not only educators, but adults in general, to form solid bonds with kids.  It is also a skill that I think most people believe they are really good at, but likely because it’s a skill extremely difficult to self-assess.  Think about the conversations you may have had today with adults and really think back on how many of those you were truly engaged as a listener.  Then, have a similar reflection, except this time with students or kids.  My hunch is that many of us have plenty of growth to do in this area.

Get back into that practice of being a great listener, which can be so challenging in this profession.  I guarantee it will pay off in your relationships with students.  If you fail to truly listen, they will sometimes show you in ways that made you wish you just listened the first time.

All educators will find themselves in a situation during the next 24 hours where a student is going to bring a valid concern to you.  It may have taken all types of courage for that student to share with you and it could truly be groundbreaking in their world.  Find a good location where you can lock in to their words.  Unplug from the rest of the world, even for that brief moment.  Forget about what you have to do next.  And be a great LISTENER.

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Education: Truly a People Business

Why education?  I often find myself thinking, what is it about this profession that was such a draw?  When I was at Hillsdale College I could have chosen many different paths, why this one?  What is it about education that has been such a draw to so many of my family members over the past 50 years?

The easy answer is kids.  That is undeniable and will always be the #1 answer.  It’s why my Dad started to teach and coach, before moving into central office.  It’s what my Mom’s work as a social worker in the public schools has been all about.  Helping kids, students, children, is exactly why my cousin and I started as teachers and have now transitioned into administration.  Developing relationships with students, helping them to learn, and supporting them as they navigate thru life will always be at the root of my professional existence.


But as I look back, there was more to it than that.  Something very specific.  I remember my parents being around other educators and our families spending vacations together. I remember becoming friends with the kids of other teachers.  There was a special camaraderie I saw with my parents and their friends in education.

I’ve always enjoyed being part of a team, a group of people working tirelessly towards a common goal with a shared vision.  It started for me at an early age on the court and on the field.  It continued when I got that same feeling from clubs, groups, and a fraternity.  Even at the lesser end of this in education is a mutual respect based on common goals for kids.  The higher end includes lifelong bonds and friendships.

Education has all of that and I’m sure that was a draw for me.  School districts have that.  Individual school buildings, athletic departments, grade levels all have that.  It is a mutual respect that develops from all members working with kids day in and day out.  There is a loyalty between educators that I greatly admire.  I like to think of the school I work at as most important “team” I have ever belonged to.  I know plenty of people who work in the business world.  I would never argue they don’t develop friendships from their camaraderie.  I just think it’s different for educators.

Think about a group of educators you know.  I bet you see deep-rooted friendships within that group.  You probably see teachers who have kids that hang out together.  You hear about spring break trips spent together.  It is common to see educators go to dinner together, camp together over the summer, coach each other’s kids, and go to the same church.  In education, that can occur regardless of job status.  Whether it is someone from central office, support staff, a principal, or a teacher, all of those people are working towards the same vision and friendships within individuals and families can develop.

The other part of the camaraderie is consistency.  Teachers, especially in small towns, don’t change jobs often.  They find a town where they want to raise a family in and hunker down for the better part of 30 years.  They are truly INVESTED in those kids, that district, that community.  You don’t find teachers being contacted by head hunters or out job searching each spring.  Part of the reason is they develop their circle of lifelong friends within their educational world.  Their family then spends generations in that same place.

Does that mean these social circles are exclusionary? Hardly.  Teachers will teach kids and then get to know that family.  That extends the circle further into the community.  I guess when you have a group of people with common interests and a deep community investment, friendships will spawn.  When you have hard working educators with similar life goals and lives centered around children, it certainly seems like friendships would form.  People that have common interests and goals often begin as colleagues and friendship soon follows.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Students will always be #1.  But I sure do appreciate loyalty, camaraderie, respect, friendship, teamwork, and community investment with a group of like-minded adults. It sounds like I uncovered more of the reasons why education is the profession for me.

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