The hairdresser asks questions about what I’d like and is attentive and responsive. I show him a photo of the way my hair used to be cut and tell him I don’t like the sides cut too short, but other than that am willing to try something new. We chat about his new salon and he tells me he how important he feels it is to listen to his clients and meet their needs. I share a story with him about a hairdresser I once went to, who did the opposite of what I had asked and then said ‘Sorry, I guess I wasn’t listening’. He is suitably unimpressed.
He cuts the sides short anyway.
While I wait for my hair to grow, I reflect on his apparent disregard for my input and I think I can identify the problem. The hairdresser is listening, but he has something in mind, while he is listening. And alas, it appears to be something different from what I have in mind!
As always, I relate the experience back to the classroom…
Do we really listen to what our students say?
Or are we subconsciously waiting for a response or idea that we have in mind, as they speak?
Are we so busy ensuring that we ‘cover’ the curriculum, we forget to listen carefully to the learning?
Or are we deeply interested in the students’ thinking and where it might take future teaching and learning?
Do we paraphrase what students say, adding our own interpretation?
Or do we listen attentively so as to ‘catch’ students’ meaning and throw back a question that pushes them to elaborate?
And even when we think we listen, do we really?