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edu180atl: beth friese 2.1.12

This week, I’m analyzing data for a research study. Today I’ve spent hours reviewing audio interviews of middle school teachers sharing ideas about their school library media program…however, a surprising amount of my time was spent listening to myself interrupt these teachers, as I offered my own thoughts about the latest in youth literature, technology, or anything else I wanted to interject.

As I immersed myself in these recordings, I learned that I am not a good listener.

I believe that dialogue is important to create and share knowledge. But, time and again as I reviewed these recordings, I shook my head as I heard myself not just talk, but talk over the important ideas the participants wanted to share.

In the excitement of interviewing, I forgot my purpose: to learn and listen.

This was not dialogue. Instead, I heard myself wanting to display my own knowledge, often silencing teachers’ ideas.

I wonder, have I forgotten the art of listening? Much of my work involves talking: teaching, presenting, or other public displays of speech. Where are my public displays of listening?

Last Sunday, I had the unique pleasure of listening to Billy Collins read his poetry. He is stunningly observant. His poems are products of noticing and of listening to the world around him. I need to practice this noticing, this listening.

And in today’s participatory culture, listening is an active, valid, and necessary form of participation. Without thoughtful, generous listening to meet the speech, ideas are silenced, poems left unwritten, brilliant sparks stamped out too soon.

About the Author: Beth Friese is a PhD Candidate in Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She studies literacy, learning, & libraries and tweets @librarybeth.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ah, Beth, I need to practice listening as well. The half-finished or unsaid comments that we rush past might be those of greatest insight or deepest feeling. Thank you for reminding me that listening is a skill honed with practice.

    February 1, 2012
    • Thanks for reading, Diane. So true. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what the teachers would have said if I had given them the space and honored them with patient listening. (I wonder what personal insights they may have missed out on, too!) I hope this experience will help me grow in many areas of my listening life.

      February 2, 2012
  2. Hi Beth!

    I applaud your insight and reflections. I too struggle with talking when I should be listening. I often have to remind myself of my purpose (to listen) and force myself to hold my tongue when I want to jump in and start speaking during what is supposed to be an information gathering conversation. And, on a somewhat related note, as a native New Yorker, I always thought jumping in (aka interrupting) and “participating” was a good thing to do…it seemed like everyone was doing it to show their interest and excitement over the conversation so you can imagine how I felt after moving to Atlanta and finding out I was “rude” and did not even know it!

    February 1, 2012
    • Hi Sue – thanks for your comment!
      I think your point about self-awareness is so important. I hope that this whole exercise / insight helps me to be more mindful about restraining my desire to talk in the future.
      I also like your point about cultural, regional, and situational expectations for talking and listening. In some situations, too much listening might seem standoffish. It’s interesting to try to figure out what the expectations and balances are for any given conversation.
      I appreciate the food for thought.
      Beth

      February 2, 2012
  3. Thank you for this honest and thoughtful post. I feel that listening is a skill that we must practice. Once we learn to ride a bike we know how to ride a bike, but to be a good listener takes ongoing effort. I’ve got work to do here as well. I really like the idea of “public displays of listening.”

    February 2, 2012
    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve had the idea of “public displays of listening” bouncing around in my head since I wrote this yesterday. I’ve thought about blogging and commenting as one way to try to listen. But, I keep thinking there is something bigger, that isn’t so much about responding to a conversation I’ve started, but really shifting the balance past response to listening. Still mucking around in this. I hope you’ll share here if you come to any new insights!

      Beth

      February 2, 2012
  4. Thank you, Beth. I think your being able to literally hear yourself by reviewing the tapes holds a valuable lesson. Feedback matters. I think of those boxes that sit at the front of the stage for bands playing in concert–to tell them what they sound like. Concrete tactics like this help us monitor our listening successes and struggles. Similarly, interviews–with adult guidance and design–are great ways to help students experience active listening.
    Thanks again for writing about this bedrock skill.

    February 12, 2012
    • I do think the act of careful listening to myself revealed my tendencies in a unique way that I easily could have missed. Also, the necessity of reflecting on it through writing pushed me further in my understanding. I think this does present opportunities for teaching kids how to listen well – something I am still learning!

      Thank you for reading and responding.

      Beth

      February 14, 2012

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