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Thursday, 28 December 2017

#OneWordOnt



This school year has certainly been the most exciting and most challenging of my educational career thus far. I was given the honour of becoming a new principal in a large elementary school in our board. The transition to the new role has been a challenging one. We started the school year short two classroom teachers, and my husband and I, along with some very caring helpers including my nephew, some caring staff members, and some student volunteers, rushed to prepare the rooms to receive children. 

We were also short a secretary, a librarian, and two custodians. Not having a secretary was especially challenging given that I was new in the school, didn't know the staff or families, or where anything was filed, stored, or kept. Let's just say I learned quickly and painfully through trial and error, guess and check!

When I saw the tweets for #OneWordOnt, I thought, this year it is a no-brainer, my OneWord is "Listen". As I get to know new staff, students and parents, listening has become the single most valuable skill I've needed to draw upon. 

It is easy to jump to conclusions, to judge behaviour, to make snap decisions, to form quick impressions when we don't take the time to listen. But listening doesn't just happen. It is not always easy to do. It is a skill, and like any other skill, it needs to be learned, developed and honed. When there is a long list of things waiting to be done, and a crisis occurs - whether it be a parent who is upset, a fight on the playground, a child who has been bullied, or a staff member with an ill family member - it is tempting to quickly "solve" the problem, to say, "do A, B and C" without first taking the time to listen. But being new to the school community, it is so critical to take the time to listen, to get to know the people involved in the issue, to hear every side of the situation, and to learn the context. 

Listening means recognizing that behaviour is a form of communication. There are so many great quotes about listening, this is one of my favourites: 
 Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self. ~ Dean Jackson
Listening often means letting my ego go, and realizing that I might not have all of the answers, or know the best way of doing things. Listening means learning; I am not learning if I do all of the talking. Listening requires humility. Listening requires an open mind and heart, a readiness to hear the other person's perspective, it requires caring about what the other person is experiencing. Listening means hearing what the other person is saying, and not saying, without planning a response. Listening means caring more about understanding than about being understood.

This year is a year of building relationships. In order to do that, I plan to LISTEN.





2 comments:

  1. I think about listening in the same way Lorraine. It is certainly a skill that I could improve upon. As you say, "I'm not learning if I do all the talking."

    I read, a few days ago, a year-end reflection by a higher ed blogger, Sean Michael Morris. I admire the work that he does, and his perspective constantly reminds me of my own aspirations in the work I do in the classroom and with teachers. For this post, he has been asked to write about one wish he has for 2018. His response juxtaposes the humility of his privilege with the clear disappoints he has faced, that ultimately has shaped his beliefs and actions. At core, he acknowledges that it is precisely because of his privilege that he needs to be silent and to listen; to give others the opportunities he was given to find their voices. Here is his conclusion:

    If I have a wish for the new year, it is not for my life to improve. It is that, through whatever power I have, I might improve the lives of others. This is what Digital Pedagogy Lab is for. This is why I write. This is why I teach. My voice pales in comparison to the cacophony of voices waiting to be heard. I want to hear them. And I believe we all will be better off if we let that cacophony rise.

    If you'd like to read the whole post, you can find it here: http://www.seanmichaelmorris.com/and-so-i-am-grateful-too/

    Sean's words resonate with me, as do yours. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for sharing Sean Michael's beautiful and thought-provoking post with me. It has made me reflect on what a privilege it is to have a voice. His post has made me realize that listening requires not only my silence, it also requires that I have trust and belief in those that I am listening to. What I love the most from his post is this line: "Generosity of spirit, generosity of dialogue, generosity of justice, cannot be exclusive." - It is so easy to want to listen only to those who agree with me! I am resigned to work extra hard at listening to the dissenting voices in 2018 and trusting that my own personal growth is dependent on what they may (or may not) say.

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