Everything I Needed To Know

IMG_1283

 

“Everything I need to know, I have yet to learn; but even as I age, maybe if I begin to listen more often than I speak, I might actually continue to learn more than I have forgotten.”

-Deb McGrath

 

After decades of being a student, a parent, and a teacher, and despite the fact that I have been a retired educator for over a decade, as another new school year begins, I find myself in the “back to school mode”. For me, learning has always been a lifelong process. And I discovered early on in my career that the critical skills necessary for learning to continue long after formal education has ended, were as important, if not even more important, than the content. Recently, via a quote posted on my sister’s Facebook page, I have rediscovered a method of learning which the very young know long before their language skills have been acquired, and which sadly, most of us forget to utilize as we age.

 

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.”

-The Dalai Lama

 

Initially, this sounded so simple that I believed such advice should go without saying. Nonetheless I have kept this quote on my own timeline because it made me reflect each time I read it, not only on my own learning style, but on my behavior as well.

Most of us would agree that much of what we are taught, especially in a formal academic setting, is by listening to our teachers. But as educators “learn” very quickly upon entering a classroom for the first time, and each and every day thereafter, on occasion there will be a major disconnect between what our students “learn” and what it is we believe we are teaching them. We learn rapidly that if we don’t modify our own behavior to utilize a variety of techniques to accommodate our students’ varied learning styles, their chances of learning what is taught is minimized. In order to get a reality check, all an educator has to do is look out into that sea of faces sitting in one’s classroom, or grade their test papers to verify that sometimes all they hear is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!”

Sometimes these “disconnects” make us laugh, sometimes they horrify us, and most often they do both. So in order to enhance the actual learning taking place in our classrooms, we modify our methods to better “listen” to our students to assess whether or not what we have taught has been learned. Sounds simple? It certainly isn’t- and thus is the reason that teaching our children well is one of the toughest jobs out there.

As with changing one’s behavior, especially as we age, this too is no easy task. But what I have discovered when I practice “true listening” is, that like teaching, it involves so much more than “hearing” other peoples’ words. All one has to do to understand this is to watch a young child model the same exact “nonverbal expression” when uttering a newly acquired word or phrase you hoped they didn’t hear! Therefore, “Stop, look and listen”, is not only good advice for teaching our young to safely cross the road, but may become invaluable advice if we truly want to continue to learn new things by talking less and listening more.

This new skill set might also have the added benefit of improving our interpersonal communication so we actually “hear” what is being said. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting you repeat and/or mirror everything another has stated unless you truly need clarification- because personally, I find this downright annoying. And I am certainly not suggesting that any of us become mute and never say another word. What I am suggesting is that if a true dialogue between two people is to happen, both parties should have an opportunity to speak and be heard, exchange ideas and information, ask and answer questions, and as a result, learn something new. To do otherwise is to be subjected to a monologue or become engaged in a “duologue”- and we all know that when this occurs we tune out and all we hear is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah!”

So my new goal is to listen more often. But I do have to admit that if I’m bored or finding the conversation annoying, and if the speaker is not picking up on my nonverbal cues, I will politely excuse myself and wander off- not because I’m rude, but because I’m old and life is too short! And maybe, just maybe, if each of us practices “putting on our listening ears” and “listen to each other’s words” as I’ve heard our children told on more occasions than I can count, we might find ourselves learning something new no matter what our age!

 

 

 

 

“Everything I need to know, I have yet to learn; but even as I age, maybe if I begin to listen more often than I speak, I might actually continue to learn more than I have forgotten.”

-Deb McGrath

 

After decades of being a student, a parent, and a teacher, and despite the fact that I have been a retired educator for over a decade, as another new school year begins, I find myself in the “back to school mode”. For me, learning has always been a lifelong process. And I discovered early on in my career that the critical skills necessary for learning to continue long after formal education has ended, were as important, if not even more important, than the content. Recently, via a quote posted on my sister’s Facebook page, I have rediscovered a method of learning which the very young know long before their language skills have been acquired, and which sadly, most of us forget to utilize as we age.

 

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.”

-The Dalai Lama

 

Initially, this sounded so simple that I believed such advice should go without saying. Nonetheless I have kept this quote on my own timeline because it made me reflect each time I read it, not only on my own learning style, but on my behavior as well.

Most of us would agree that much of what we are taught, especially in a formal academic setting, is by listening to our teachers. But as educators “learn” very quickly upon entering a classroom for the first time, and each and every day thereafter, on occasion there will be a major disconnect between what our students “learn” and what it is we believe we are teaching them. We learn rapidly that if we don’t modify our own behavior to utilize a variety of techniques to accommodate our students’ varied learning styles, their chances of learning what is taught is minimized. In order to get a reality check, all an educator has to do is look out into that sea of faces sitting in one’s classroom, or grade their test papers to verify that sometimes all they hear is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!”

Sometimes these “disconnects” make us laugh, sometimes they horrify us, and most often they do both. So in order to enhance the actual learning taking place in our classrooms, we modify our methods to better “listen” to our students to assess whether or not what we have taught has been learned. Sounds simple? It certainly isn’t- and thus is the reason that teaching our children well is one of the toughest jobs out there.

As with changing one’s behavior, especially as we age, this too is no easy task. But what I have discovered when I practice “true listening” is, that like teaching, it involves so much more than “hearing” other peoples’ words. All one has to do to understand this is to watch a young child model the same exact “nonverbal expression” when uttering a newly acquired word or phrase you hoped they didn’t hear! Therefore, “Stop, look and listen”, is not only good advice for teaching our young to safely cross the road, but may become invaluable advice if we truly want to continue to learn new things by talking less and listening more.

This new skill set might also have the added benefit of improving our interpersonal communication so we actually “hear” what is being said. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting you repeat and/or mirror everything another has stated unless you truly need clarification- because personally, I find this downright annoying. And I am certainly not suggesting that any of us become mute and never say another word. What I am suggesting is that if a true dialogue between two people is to happen, both parties should have an opportunity to speak and be heard, exchange ideas and information, ask and answer questions, and as a result, learn something new. To do otherwise is to be subjected to a monologue or become engaged in a “duologue”- and we all know that when this occurs we tune out and all we hear is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah!”

So my new goal is to listen more often. But I do have to admit that if I’m bored or finding the conversation annoying, and if the speaker is not picking up on my nonverbal cues, I will politely excuse myself and wander off- not because I’m rude, but because I’m old and life is too short! And maybe, just maybe, if each of us practices “putting on our listening ears” and “listen to each other’s words” as I’ve heard our children told on more occasions than I can count, we might find ourselves learning something new no matter what our age!

 

 

 

Leave a Reply