I like humble people. People who seek first to understand a situation and listen carefully before professing a solution or offering input. Those people who do not need to tell you how intelligent they are but rather seek to gain understanding and knowledge. The adage, “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know” rings absolutely true for me. The more I explore learning and teaching, the more I realize that I do not have the answers. If anything I have heaps more questions . . . .
I’m not alone in my respect for humility. More and more companies are recognizing that many high flying graduates from Universities may lack a certain academic humility. They believe, and I understand why, that they are smart and have much to offer any company or crisis around. Employers are finding that with this academic excellence may come with an academic conceit that does not allow high flyers to work very well in group settings. As we learn that group work and collaboration can boost our results in the business world or in basic problem solving, Academic conceit can actually hinder getting to the best solution.
But, if we know humility is an important trait, if we know it leads to a more inquisitive mind, seeking to understand, how do we teach children in our classrooms to be more humble? How do we teach that by listening intently and delving deeply with an open mind can open up new perspectives on old problems? What are we doing in our classrooms to support that?
One thing I think we can do to assist this trait development in kids is to allow them to work in groups regularly and to have mechanisms in place which force children to listen to each other. The First Nations idea of passing around a feather which symbolizes who is able to speak at that time is a wonderful way to tie in the First Nations wisdom to your regular classroom. Dr. Laura Stanley says about the talking feather “that the art of Native communication style values cooperation over competition which reflects areas of their lifestyles. When engaging in conversation they listen intently generally looking down and do not focus on eye contact until the person speaking has finished.” This ability to fully listen creates a humility in children – a respect for the wisdom in each of us and the collective wisdom of the room. If we teach kids to be humble – we teach them to learn.
A second way to teach people to listen authentically, helping them develop a sense of humility, is to ask children to listen deeply to a partner’s opinion on something and then have them restate that opinion to someone else. This little simple exercise makes children listen carefully as they have to pass that learning along. It laso forces them to listen to the story of their partner – listen to the deep understandings that others have. It’s empathy building.
A third way to build authentic listening skills in children is to model it. Listen deeply to your students. Ask questions to dig deeply before judging or offering feedback. Seek to know your students on a personal level. This not only shows them the importance of listening deeply but it shows them that you care. This in turn prevents a lot of the day to day behavior management that teachers need to provide. All children want to be loved and listening deeply is a sign of caring.
Keep on learning.