School Culture: The Value of Listening to Your Students
As we cautiously step forward from summer into fall, we’re faced with a daunting task. Namely, we must find a way to rebuild our school culture.
Prior to Covid, I traveled around the country helping hundreds of schools build a positive and productive culture. And now, nearly two years later, it feels in many ways like we’re starting from scratch.
This is obviously a big challenge, and so I’ve decided to launch a series of blog posts to address the issue of rebuilding school culture. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. We will get through this, and we will find a way to push forward.
For now, I want to start with a simple reminder for all of us to listen. Folks working in education are excellent listeners in general, but having been so disconnected for so long, it makes sense that we might be a little rusty.
So, how do we listen? I mean, how do we really listen?
It starts with being present. Here. Now. In the moment.
In order to arrive in this present moment, I’d like you to try an exercise with me. Don’t worry, I won’t make you do anything silly! This one is quite easy and doesn’t require anything other than your attention. Here it is: as you take your next breath, see if you can pay attention to only your breath as it comes and goes. Follow it all the way in, and all the way out. This might take a few tries, so give yourself a moment. Just one breath, all the way in, and all the way out.
In that moment, did you feel present in the here and now? I’ll bet you did! To be present is simply to hold awareness of the immediate moment in which you find yourself. That feeling of being present is the foundation of listening, and true listening cannot occur unless we are present.
Now here is the challenge. The next time you get the chance to interact with a student, try to actively listen to what that student is trying to tell you. This might seem trivial, but in my opinion, it is the single most important thing we can do for our students in this era of isolation and uncertainty.
Your students need to be heard, now more than ever. Currently, they are mourning the loss of two years of a normal, happy childhood. We must – we must – give them the space to be heard. This might be one of the greatest gifts those in education can offer to our children.
I know it’s hard, sometimes. I won’t deny it. As a therapist, it has taken years to be able to hold present, active listening for the sessions I have with my clients or students I work with in a leadership summit. But I hope you realize how encouraging it is that I was able to expand my ability to listen, even though at first I had to start small. This shows that listening is a skill like any other, and if I can develop it, that means you can too.
In fact, I’ll bet many of you are already very far along in developing this skill, but the challenge we all face remains the same. By actively listening in brief moments, we can build up our listening skills to greater and greater heights.
Imagine what could happen if all of us really, truly listened to each other.
P.S. We just released our new short film on VAPING… CLICK HERE to watch it.
JC Pohl, LMFT
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH