When the conversation is the destination

This post by Sandra Herbst about the power of listening really resonated with me today.

I have been thinking about listening a lot…in fact, each day before I meet with various groups, I repeat my mantra/ personal goal: Listen. Bring your best self and listen. This takes work for me. Even with this goal in my mind, sometimes I lose myself and then catch up with my own voice. In these moments, I vow to do better. When I stop and listen, it is incredibly powerful…and I don’t mean just for the person being heard. It is powerful for me. I learn. I empathize. I connect. And there just isn’t enough of that in the world.

A little while ago, I was working with the Differentiated Instruction Facilitator group. We were trying to co-construct an understanding of their complex role inside schools. The group was expressing feelings of pressure to be the catalyst for change and growth. It was in this moment that I suggested that maybe their work wasn’t so much about conversations in order to get to a particular destination (authentic assessment practices, differentiated instruction, etc). Maybe the conversation was the destination. Maybe this is where the rubber hits the road…when we are conversing, reflecting and thinking. Being committed to listening and then paraphrasing and wondering alongside someone can be very powerful. Much more powerful than telling. I am amazed that it has taken me so long to figure this out.

I am convinced that the need be heard is equally important for students. I think back a month or so, when I was meeting with grade six students about their artwork. Each child met me in the library for ten minutes, to talk about their creative processes, their goals and their successes. I was overwhelmed by their responses. They just really liked having a voice; being heard. And I just listened. It was very powerful. The conversation was the destination.


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