Listen More

It has been a while since I’ve blogged! Jeez – it amazes me how time flies. How busy we get, how overcommitted we are and before you know it, it’s the end of October!

But I’m back. I’m feeling slightly more balanced after being so singularly focused on finishing National Boards.

And I’ve got a lot on my mind!

Just this past week, I spent the week learning about dispute resolution, mediation and just learning how to become a better listener at the CADRE Symposium in Eugene, Oregon. CADRE is an organization dedicated to the dispute resolution process by creating strong partnerships and collaboration. (Side note: if you are a SPED teacher or parent or an admin, I strongly encourage you to check out their resources on their website at www.cadreworks.org)

As I have been sitting in sessions listening to presenters, I’ve been thinking more and more about how I can improve and strengthen my partnerships with parents. What could I improve and do better? How could I make them more actively involved?

Creating strong partnerships, requires building relationships.

And building relationships takes work.

And listening.

We often think about our relationships with parents and cringe. Parents have complaints, and needs and take up our time. But at the heart of their need, lies some important truths: their children matter and are important to them, they are worried and concerned, they want the best for them and they often look to us as educators to provide them with answers and comfort and our time.

In one of the sessions this past week we learned about the importance of letting parents just talk — to just share what they need to say, to be heard- without the listener trying problem solve and offer solutions for them or passing any judgment.

True confession: I can’t remember the last time I just made time and sat and listened to a parent without being in the middle of a meeting, without trying to solve their problems, without all of the noise that too often distracts me during conversations.

Truly listening is hard.

I need to be a better listener.

And just listen.

Not plan, not formulate, not drift off.

And then I started thinking about my partnerships with students. What have I done to build those partnerships? I have a perception that I have a good relationship with my students. Perhaps they would agree with that assessment. But, perhaps not. As I have been thinking this past week and been immersed in a culture of listening and truly hearing those we are listening, I started to wonder: when was the last time I just listened to my students?

True confession: I can’t remember the last time I just made time and sat and listened to a student without being in the middle of a class, without trying to solve their problems without all of the noise that too often distracts me during conversations. I don’t remember the last time I had TRULY taken time to listen – I mean REALLY listen. Not just our typical conversations we have during the day listening, but listened just to hear what they had to say.

I need to be a better listener.

And just listen.

Not plan, not formulate, not drift off.

Listening is hard work when you feel overwhelmed, overstimulated and overcommitted.

I need to be a better listener.

It is so easy to take our relationships for granted – especially our easy ones. But it is easy to quickly use up all of the savings that you have deposited in the relationship bank when you neglect to make any deposits.

Making deposits to a relationship bank requires work and effort.

And listening.

It is also impossible to do this when you aren’t taking time to listen to yourself and when you aren’t making the time to listen to the people that you love.

It’s impossible to do when you, yourself do not feel heard.

This week I spent a lot of time thinking about how unheard my students must feel – by teachers, by me, by their parents, by their friends. How often do students with disabilities feel isolated and alone because they are different or can’t communicate the way that their peers do?

Friday morning I listened to a panel of students who had gone through school without ever having felt listened to and heard by anyone around them and had barely made it through school. Their message to teachers was to stop and listen more. They talked about needing help, asking for help and having the people who had the power to help them not hearing what they were asking for. They felt ignored, they felt voiceless, the felt powerless.

I hated hearing them say this because I don’t ever want to do that to my students.

I want to be a better listener so that my students never feel ignored or voiceless or powerless. And I want to teach them how to make sure that they are heard. Most importantly, I want them to know that they always have someone who will listen.

As professionals, we are busy beyond belief, we are overburdened with tasks that take away from our time with our students and stretched to the limit with our numerous professional and personal obligations.

But we must make time.

We must make time to listen to our students biggest fears, their joys, their worries, their wishes and their dreams.

We must make time to make our students, NO MATTER THEIR AGE, part of their own IEP meetings so that they feel heard, valued and powerful.

And I need to make time for my students. I need to give them my undivided attention, let them talk.

And I will listen more.

Just listen.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Rachel

 

 

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