As teachers, we are also problem solvers. We have so much information and data and techniques that when we see a problem that we can solve, it is almost impossible for us not to step in and solve it. This is a great skill, but can also be our greatest weakness. Often, when we see the solution to other people’s problems we can skip over the part where we actually listen to them explain their problems. In this video, Polly Bath explains why being a good listener is so important.
When we listen to someone explain their problems, two important things happen. First, that person feels heard, validated, and cared for. Think about how much better you feel after you feel like someone actually listened to you. Not only do you feel better about yourself and the situation, but you also trust the person more. By building that relationship through listening, you will have better communication in the future. After the person feels heard, validated, and cared for, any solution you present will be much better received.
The second benefit to listening is the person talking through their problem is more likely to work through the issue themselves simply by talking it out. Part of listening is asking questions. As a teacher, you are familiar with guided questioning. You can help the person find their own solution by asking questions that will guide them to a solution. Unlike in a lesson plan with a predetermined “right” answer to guided questions, while listening and asking questions that guide them to a solution, there may be multiple “right” answers. Be careful not to guide them too much to your solution, but rather help them find their own way.
Sometimes, feeling heard is the solution. Right now, many people in the teaching profession do not feel heard. That can make it hard to hear other people. I encourage you to find someone that is a good listener, regardless of their ability to solve your problems. They might just help you find your own solution. And don’t forget to be a good listener to them as well.
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