At our school’s whole faculty meeting yesterday morning (we see our kids on Monday for the first time) we had an interesting PD session on listening/counseling/advising and I have some ideas rattling around the cave of my mind that I need to air out somehow.
We had an exercise where we were to pair up with someone that we do not know well. Our school has two campuses separated by 3 miles – so the pairing generally was one upper school member with a lower school counterpart. We were to then take turns talking about something important to us for 8 minutes and then switch speaker roles. When it was not our turn to speak we were to listen – not to ask questions, not to comment, just listen. After the activity the guest speaker – a therapist from the Stanley H King Counseling Institute – was gathering reflections and impressions from us about this exercise. One of my colleagues commented that he found it difficult to listen without asking questions and the therapist remarked that it is difficult to simply let another person’s thoughts go where they want to go rather than influence them to go where we want them to go.
This got me thinking about my questioning habits in the classroom. I have long thought that one of my strengths as a teacher is my willingness to trade telling for asking in many situations. After this conversation yesterday I am now wondering how much I need to try to trade asking for listening in classroom discussion situations. Am I just fooling myself into thinking that my asking is any less monopolizing an activity than telling is? I need to ponder this and I’d love to hear any reflections from the world outside my head.
It feels odd to have the first comment to my own post, but I just caught up with Bowman Dickson’s most recent post (http://bowmandickson.com/2013/08/19/observations-socratic-dialogue-or-socratic-monologue/) and he kind of attacks the same concern I have. Nice to feel that this question is just in the air.
I wonder about this too. I suspect that if I am asking leading questions, instead of just putting an idea out there for the students to think about, I’m not helping them sufficiently. It also makes me think that there needs to be more of a place for the students to have real discussions (where they also have to model this kind of listening to each other?).