22 Nov Slice of Life: Advocate by Listening #NCTE16
Children’s desire to express themselves is relentless. – Katherine Bomer
Each year we spend some time on our journey home from NCTE reflecting on our takeaways from the conference. We search for a thread or pattern to connect the thoughts and ideas we heard throughout the sessions. This year the theme of the conference was the Faces of Advocacy. There are so many ways we can advocate as educators –policy, teacher voice, or student voice are only some of the options. As we settled in for our two-hour flight, we reread our notes and talked about our big ideas and what we would bring back to our work in schools. What is the theme for us this year? What do we want to hold close in our work this upcoming year? If we had to sum it up in a word, what would it be?
Listening to our students is one way we can advocate. Katherine Bomer shared that we not only need to create space, we need to “guard space for our students to think, connect and talk.” When we guard this space, we get the opportunity to listen to them; to support them listening to each other; and invite them to listen to themselves.
We believe there has never been a more important time than now to focus on listening. It seems that social media and the internet flood us with so much information and make it so easy for each person to “say” what they want to communicate. Listening may become a lost art. How do we advocate by listening?
We listen to:
- understand who our students are as readers, writers and people
- connect what our students know with what they are trying to learn
- grow and change our perspective based on a new point of view
- consider – without consideration we can never come to a place of understanding
- help our students develop their own identity through listening to their own words and responses to the words of others
- feel the impact of our words on those around us
- let another person know we care to hear their words
As educators we listen so closely to our students to hear them – truly hear them. The only way to advocate for them is to know them. The only way to know them is to listen to them.
Our advocacy can also support them in creating a stance in life that urges them to listen so closely to those around them. A stance that reminds them to always slow down, to consider the point of view of others and to listen with an open mind. This stance, or way of life, will help them discover they always have the power to choose kindness and acceptance. When listening, rather than talking, is the goal we choose our words more carefully and purposefully – we talk with the perspective of others in mind.
If we slow down to listen and teach our students to do the same we are advocating for our them and teaching them to advocate for themselves and others. We believe this quote sums it up best:
“Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they’re telling the truth.” The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
Listening is the first step.
We love going to NCTE each year. It is always a time to listen and be inspired by new ideas; to listen to mentors who ground us as we grow; to listen to friends who know us and help us challenge our thinking; to listen to our hearts and remember the power of being a teacher.