“Thank You For Sharing”- How Listeners Attend to Talkers

I’m currently enrolled in a course through the Penn Literacy Network. In an effort to blog more frequently, I am hoping to share my reflections here on a weekly basis. Our first class looked at the 4 Lenses of Learning (Meaning-Centered, Social, Language-Based, and Human).

My notes from class #1
My notes from class #1

A theme that stood out in our readings and discussion is the idea of student/teacher voice and the importance of listening.

“Listening is one of the most important things we can do for one another. If we care, we can listen” -Fred Rogers

I recently received this quote as part of a Remind 101 course led by Angela Maiers. It appeared on my phone at the most perfect moment, and connects with some of the topics discussed during our first class. I’d like to think that listening builds empathy and compassion, both of which seem to fit in across all four of the lenses of learning.

Angela’s campaign Choose2Matter is one that is near and dear to my heart, and one that I had the opportunity to witness in person last June. The idea is rather simple: when people know they matter, and understand that their actions count, they can change the world. Yet, when asked if they believed that their actions mattered and could have an impact on the world, a large percentage of my 5th grade students said ‘no.’ As a result, I have spent this first month of school listening to them.

Across all grades (K-5) we started our year in library by reading books that celebrate creativity and sharing ideas. Some of our favorites include: The Dot, Ish, Going Places, What Do You Do With An Idea, and The Most Magnificent Thing. We then went on to talk about, and create visual representations of our individual superpowers. Students then combined their superpowers to form teams of 4 to 6 students with whom they will be working for the next few weeks.  To me, this aligns well with the Human Lens of Learning. I’d like to think that spending this time sharing our heart maps, passions, and super powers will provide us a foundation of ‘mattering’ as we begin to dive into content. One that we can also revisit throughout the year. Teachers have been sharing some of our and our students’ learning through the hashtag #havpassion too. A visual representation its evolution is available HERE.

Heart Maps Created by 5th Grade Students

The importance of listening is what has stood out most to me from the readings and experiences in our first class. I have learned so much about all of the individual students I have the opportunity to work with by listening to them. Yet I also noticed an approach by the facilitators of this course to model active listening and reflection while working with our group of teachers and administrators. Seemingly simple things, like individually thanking those who share something with the group, validate the voices in the room. While we all encourage our students to have a voice in our classrooms, it’s important for teachers to feel as though their voices are valued too. If we care about our students to listen to their voices, don’t we owe that same courtesy to our peers?

Our text notes that, “Writers assume readers, readers imagine writers. Talkers focus on listeners, and listeners attend to talkers” (p 7).  I love the word choice of listeners attending to talkers. This portrays listening an active, instead of passive, choice. Going back to the initial quote from the first session, if “paying attention is one of the hardest things any of us is asked to do,” then active listening takes this to a deeper level. Speakers may be able to focus on their audience of listeners, but is it then up to the listeners to validate the speaker’s voice? Can the same be said when translated from oral to written texts with regards to readers and writers? Is it the skills of reading and listening or otherwise consuming text that enable students to create their own?

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