I just learned that if you Google "listen to your students," the search results quickly morph into "how to encourage your students to listen to you."
The former, I believe, is the finer skill and equally as important as the latter.
I think it's safe to generalize that many parents, esp. those beaten down and exhausted by the economy, find very few minutes in the day to sit quietly and listen to their kids. And when I am around groups of teenagers, I don't see many of them listening to each other, either. They're neither straining to hear nor straining to be heard; rather, they are ensuring headaches and neck pain for their later years by staring down at their cell phone, feverishly tapping out a critical message to someone not sitting right next to them.
Maybe we should try listening to them. I've tried it a couple of times and I'm pretty sure I saw gratitude awaken in the eyes of my young listenee.
Do you remember what it felt like when a teacher stopped what she was doing long enough to listen to insignificant, harried, confused, teen-aged you? Weren't you flattered by this little moment of grace? Didn't it make you want to work harder for this teacher and to give her a little less grief?
(I'm not sure it ever happened to me. I remember this, instead: "Young man, could you please have a seat so we can start class? Thank you!")
This week, I resolve to listen: When a student has something to tell or ask me, I'll take a breath, establish eye contact, not be formulating a snappy comeback, and just listen. I'll certainly do this during class discussions, but also before or after class.
High school is a hectic, fast-forward world for everyone -- everything happens too fast, and it happens faster every year -- but it's okay to create an eddy in the rapids, or, if you prefer, hit pause on the DVR of life, and let a teenager be heard for a change.