Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I've never conducted any quantitative research into the matter, but I suspect that what every human on the face of the planet wants is to be heard. It's when we wave away with an impatient and dismissive hand details that irk us or that strike us as noise that we exclude whole rafts of people for whom those details represent the core of things.

Relating to my earlier post: when we really listen to people, we are able to teach them, because we are able to provide them with learning materials that are appropriate. It is when we really listen that we gain insights that might just reveal the key to unlocking whole new vistas... for both them and us

When we enter a situation already knowing the answer, we deprive our learners of so much. We also deprive ourselves.

I suspect that, going into a situation in teacher mode is the mistake: I am going in there to give of myself sacrificially so that all those wonderful learners can acquire knowledge they didn't have before. Aren't I wonderful?

If I go 'in there' in learner mode first, I can find out so much about where my learners are on their learning journey. About what they already know. I can help them to see how much they already know. I can encourage them to share what they know with each other. I can help them to see their existing knowledge as valuable. To see that they have something to offer. I can meet with them on a whole different level. I can learn from them and find out what they need/want to learn from me.

I can achieve this by listening. Really listening.

This is my best friend in all the world. Once a year, she goes on a mission trip to the poverty-stricken mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where she works with the poorest of the poor. She does a lot of stuff that most other aid workers do the world over. But look at her face in this picture. This picture reveals exactly why she is my best friend in all the world. It reveals what it is about her that sets her apart from others.Lynda listens.

Almost without exception, people of my acquaintance who have visited a deprived community with a view to giving, have come away claiming to have received far more than they gave. Those with nothing (educationally, materially - it matters not) impart so much to those with plenty. But only if those with plenty are prepared to be humble enough to see it. To hear it. To receive it.

Are you? Am I? Are we listening to our learners?

Photograph by Justin de Reuck

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