Yesterday, I was in our weekly program meeting. (The admin team gathers to talk about the week ahead and plan for any critical issues.) During the discussion, I was asked a question, and I was not paying attention. I owned my lack of focus and shared the reason for my distraction. I was multitasking—preparing for my class, and, wait for it…reading an article about active listening.
I have not been in the classroom daily for about six years, but I feel like today’s student struggles to listen. Distractions continue to grow (devices, social media, fidget spinners), and students are simply unaccustomed to listening to another person talk—even for five or ten minutes. The students may hear my voice, but, like me in the meeting, they are not actually listening.
So, this week we are studying the nonverbal and verbal skills needed to improve active listening.
The Nonverbal Keys
Body language: lean forward, respectfully mirror the speaker’s emotion, make eye contact, smile, nod (within reason), and limit distracting behaviors.
Offer positive affirmation, ask questions, share a summary or reflection of the speaker’s words, and/or remember what is said when prompted (at a minimum, be able to recall the key points).
As you drive to school or sit around the dinner table, work on active listening with your child. Listening is a skill, and you can improve with practice.
P.S. I will be following the guidelines in my next meeting.