Friday, September 23, 2016

Listening to each other...more important than ever

In my last post I noted that one of my goals for this school year was to listen deeply. As some of the events of the last few weeks and months become more controversial and violent, I find that my Facebook posts have developed a pattern. That pattern is about the need to listen, truly listen, and deeply, to each other's stories. As novelist Chimamanda  Ngozi Adichie reminds us, as we learn about each other, we must beware of only assuming or hearing a "single story."

When we deeply listen to each other, we can help reduce violence. Sharing stories moves us toward empathy. When we develop empathy, factors which foster aggression become lessened.

The goals of the Standing Rock Sioux, for example, is multi-faceted - stewardship of the land, preservation of ancestral grounds, as well as the genuine life necessity of safe water, not merely a claim to land that others want to put a pipeline through- Those Fighting To Preserve Native Land Are Protectors, Not Protesters.

Those very Sioux are the descendants of people who were in North America first but now of course, the U.S. is made up of people whose ancestors came from all over the world. Today, there is so much controversy over refugees. Yet, the U.S. has been built, at least in part, with the ingenuity, labor, and passion of refugees. We are beneficiaries of the various views, experiences, and efforts of so many. We also have some history of turning away refugees when they needed us most. Closing the door to Jews fleeing the Nazis is a blemish on U.S. history. Here is our chance to listen to others and save lives- Refugees’ plight is personal for these diplomats.What is gained by not opening the door wider? Consider what is lost by closing it and not hearing the stories of those in need. What if you needed refuge and no one opened the door for you?

And what of the descendants of those who did not choose but were forced to come to the U.S. who must face the results of the systemic racism that has brewed in this nation for centuries?  This brew has boiled over as the evidence of this racism is felt so keenly across the nation, notably through the police-involved shootings over the last few years and even days. Yet, there is hope, too. One program has Chicago police officers going into schools and role playing with students. They learn about each other's perspectives and experiences by sharing and embracing each others' stories to prevent deadly confrontations; they go beyond hearing a single story.

Other solutions for reducing anger, violence, suspicion, and fear can be found in the messages that these stories convey, especially among our youngest and most vulnerable, our children:
8 Tips for Discussing Challenging Global Issues with Your Child

An Elementary School Has Kids Meditate Instead Of Punishing Them and the Results are Profound

Here is one final example of a win-win situation that results from intergenerational exchanges that can be made while also providing reasonable housing for students. It fosters models of inclusion, relationship-building, and empathy.

When we open our hearts and minds, we work toward building empathy. When there is more empathy, I have to believe we will have more peace.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My goal for this school year: Listen DEEPLY

Listen. Listen. Listen. Allow yourself to be silent and actively, intentionally listen. 

That is my mantra for this new school year. One of the gifts of being a teacher is that each Fall is, in fact, a new year. It is a time of renewal and continued growth. I hope that my growth this year will come from my efforts to listen deeply to my students, my peers, and my heart.

Each day I am presented with an abundance of messages from my youngest learner, my second grade daughter, to the most experienced learners around me, other adults. Allowing oneself to listen can take patience, concerted effort, and a giving way of the need to be heard. What can I learn from others - not only from their words but from the ways that they express their words? What messages are conveyed in the overt and subtle ideas, emotions, experiences, and questions of others? How will this deeper listening help me develop greater empathy?

Deep listening takes time. One is forced to slow down and process what is being shared. Living in a teaching schedule causes one to experience life in timed segments punctuated by bells that tell us to change to the next class, event, or activity. By focusing on deep listening, I can slow down portions of the day. I can focus on moments that matter rather than racing to the next thing. This is going to take energy to shift my daily pace to make time for meaningful moments. I truly believe that I will benefit from these efforts and I hope that my students and those around me will, too.