The power of listening 

We recently had a community circle with my students. Reports just went home and my principal commented on how much my students have grown up. I too have noticed this difference from last year to this year so I decided to ask them, what has been the difference that has made the difference.

At first, they gave some stock answers:

1) we grew up

2) we knew you had high standards. I laugh at this one but it is true.

But then one of the students said it was the community circles. I prompted further and asked, ” but didn’t you have them last year?”

They affirmed my thoughts and said yes but this year you listen.

Listen? I asked. Yes, you let us talk and then let us say how we should solve the problem. You let us share and you just sit there and listen.

It’s struck me for a couple of reasons. The first is I often feel I talk too much but also was that really it? Was this really the difference?

I know we all listen to our students but how often do we really listen?

Let me try it a different way. As many of you know I write about my daughter a lot. She has made me a better person and a teacher because of the struggles that she goes through.  I have been reading a lot about parenting and self-regulation. The number one thing that I hear is, all kids just want to be understood and listened too. In fact, I think that most people want that. However, that is not an easy feat. Many of times the battles that I do have with my daughter is because I don’t listen and I jump right to my opinion or my interpretation of what I think happened.

Students are no different. They want to be listened too but how often do we fake listen.

Please don’t get me wrong. I think as teachers we all do an amazing job and are stretched so thin but I am writing this more as a reminder to myself to take time to listen. Students say the most wonderful things and when they know you care about them, they care about you.


Author: MrSoClassroom

I am a grade school Teacher, promoting creativity and exploration in all of my students. My classroom is always in a state of Inquiry.

8 thoughts on “The power of listening ”

  1. Thanks, Jonathan. I often get frustrated because I feel like I listen better to my students than to my two teenagers at home. Luckily, my younger kiddo is not shy about calling me on my “not listening” in our interactions, and that helps me realize when I’m jumping in too soon. We do a check-in in our classroom every morning, and one thing we continue to work on is giving equal listening to each person in the room. It’s an ongoing journey, both in class and at home.


    1. Isn’t it weird that we can often listen to our students more then our kids. I feel like such a bad parent sometimes for not being able to listen to them. Mine are too young to call me out but they do in other ways. Always an ongoing journey. Thanks for the comment.


  2. Jonathan, I think you make a wonderful point here about listening. Listening and “hearing” students has been a “one word goal” of mine in the past. I would love to dig deeper here. What made the students know that you’re listening to them? I wonder if all of us thinking more about the answer to this question will change how we listen to kids. What do you think?



    1. I remember you choosing that as your goal. I have really been thinking about this in combination to self-regulation and more importantly how it impacts my daughter. I know that all she wants to happen is for someone to listen. It is easier said than done, especially when students are doing actions that are a little less appropriate than others but in the end that is exactly what she is telling me.

      I really don’t know what it is that makes them see me as listening. I think it maybe because I don’t give grades and we do a lot of conferencing around their goals, their wants and their needs. I also think I really try to be in tune with who they are and what they need. I look for the stressors before they happen so that we can regulate their behaviour. I also think that having them start and talk in the community circles has been the best. We sit around and the floor is theirs. As long as they follow the ground rules I really don’t butt in. They lead the discussions and at the end, I try to summarize or conclude their thoughts. If students go a little too far off topic I may say something but it is the students talking.

      I think it has helped that they understand that they matter in our classroom. That those two words are not just some surface level thinking but words that I really try to live by. I do think though that if more of us thought about the question it changes how we listen to kids. What do you think?


  3. Thanks for your reply, Jonathan! You share a lot of interesting points here. I’m still curious to get a little deeper and figure out HOW kids know you’re listening to them. You mentioned that they did Community Circles last year, so what makes this year different? When they say you “listen to them,” what does that really mean? I wonder what your students would say about this. Could they dig a little deeper? I think it’s when we go down deep with this topic that we figure out the difference between “active listening” and “surface level listening” (not sure this is actually a term). Thoughts?



    1. So I asked my kids. They said a couple of interesting things:

      1) you don’t judge
      2) you let us talk even if we have trouble communicating
      3) our problems are still problems and you see that. Even if it’s a pencil you don’t judge and therefore we can talk to
      4) your also easy to talk too

      I found this very interesting as I think this is what self reg has been talking about. Listening for those stressors has been a big learning for me. Thanks for pushing the discussion.


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