Our writing project site director, Dr. Jonathan H. Lovell, otherwise affectionately known as “ther cap’n,” gave the closing presentation at our recent Saturday Seminar. He accompanied his narrative with an elegant slide show of photographs and shared his doctorate insight and his practical experience with learning to listen in the Intensive Summer Institutes, which he has directed/participated in for 26 years.
Even a tuba player, or an outspoken person (this photo is not Jonathan) has to listen to play or orate well.
As a writing project leader now writing some ~ more for grant funding than for fun ~ I continue to immerse myself in the art of listening. And, as an interventionist, I lean in at a horseshoe table for all the daily groups, listening carefully to prompt well.
In larger interventions with older students than the primary children I’m seeing now, over the past 4 years I see one big need they generally share as learners. Yep, learning to listen.
And I don’t just mean that “listen to directions” classroom kind of attention. I see ELD students almost expert at screening out the yammering teacher voice that goes on and on. I’m talking about the lines of communication that are so clearly only connected to the primary speaker.
I have to teach students to listen to one another. And that is largely done by have a “no hand raising rule” in my classroom. When I visited NYC TCRWP schools several Februaries ago, during a spectacular blizzard, one of the things that impressed me was the calm, quiet focus in the entire building. I noticed that teachers, and our seminar leaders, prompted us two main ways.
“Let’s get started.”
“If no one is talking it’s your turn.”
When I returned to my 5th grade classroom, in an open pod of 5 classrooms, no one believed that eliminating hand raising would work. I tried it. I loved it.
Now, having taught ELD interventions, GATE groups, struggling readers and mathematicians I see how deeply important it is for students to learn to listen to one another and me.
In my intervention groups I have to train students to not gasp and throw up their hand every time a thought, or possible thought crosses their minds. Or the desire to be noticed. Or whatever. We are beginning to talk genuinely about our books and connect our experience.
Writing gets richer with listening. I am beginning to suspect that the listening required in our minds…the conversation in our heads when we read may be better attended if we become better listeners.
I really don’t like hand raising in classrooms. So undemocratic. I could go on about my prejudice, and I’ve heard teachers defend it as if it is a basic right of American schools.
My point is that I’m studying listening. Deeper listening.
Jonathan’s talk with the slide show demonstrated how incomparably wonderful the level of listening to each other — teachers in the institute — became after the orientation and a few sessions.