I’m pretty great at talking. Ask me how I’m doing and I can talk your ear off giving you every detail of my day
But what I’ve really been learning to lean into lately is listening.
As a teacher, it’s very tempting to talk all the time. I’m constantly sharing my thinking out loud, explaining something, giving directions, or providing intervention.
What I’m beginning to realize is that listening to others offers so much insight.
In the classroom, listening to a child’s thinking about how they solved a 3-digit addition problem gives me a window into their understanding. Taking time to really listen to what students have to say to each other and to myself has also been extremely eye-opening, because most of these kiddos are just dying for attention.
Dating long distance has taught me that having quality conversations is foundational, but truly listening to the person on the other side of the phone is a necessity. Our relationship cannot grow if one of us does all the talking and the other all the listening.
My Guy does this weird thing when I’m verbalizing my thinking at a Lorelei Gilmore pace. When I finally stop and wait for his response, which I’ve assumed he’s already formulated, there’s silence. And silence not because he hasn’t been listening, but silence because he’s truly been thinking about what I’ve said. He processes alongside with me, not ahead of me. At first, I just assumed he wasn’t paying attention. But in reality, he was listening so intently that our conversation became that much richer in the end.
Not only has long distance dating given me practice on listening, but my time running has as well. I’m out on my own on the road for almost an hour at a time. In the beginning, I listened to music as I ran, but as the runs got longer, the music just wasn’t doing it for me. In the last few months I’ve switched to podcasts and audiobooks and I have fallen in love with my running&listening&thinking time. It’s an hour that I can focus solely on one topic, one conversation, one train of thought.
I’ve learned that being a non-amazing multi-tasker is okay, in fact, I believe it’s a great quality. My one track mind allows me to really zero-in on what’s happening around me and try to begin to process it all. I’m nowhere near perfect. Ask my students and they’ll say they could pick my voice out of an auditory line-up and my sweet Guy hears lots and lots about my day.
But the more that I remind myself of the greater benefits of listening to understand and not respond, the more productive these conversations become.