Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Quick to Listen

almshouseby Julie Prentice

When I first started teaching, those in positions of influence in my life blessedly possessed more faith in me than I had in myself. I am thankful for each and every word of encouragement spoken into my life during those times, and I’m equally grateful for ears to hear them. As an introverted and reflective person, I worried that I might not be flamboyant enough, or entertaining enough, or confident enough. Was the kind of life-changing teaching to which I aspired dependent on whether I could deliver a finely scripted lecture or give crystal clear directions to every activity or execute conference presentations with great finesse?

Perhaps unsure of the answers to those questions then, I now know that the words of James –“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry”[1]— could aptly frame any bulletin board I could ever devise at any level and in any place I have ever practiced my profession. Good teaching surely does involve learning to manage a class and articulate thoughts and sequence lessons well. Speaking is undoubtedly important. But of first importance….

LISTEN WELL. Yea, excel in listening.

No matter where I am, I must listen to my students: their words, their actions, their questions, their hearts….even their silence. By listening, even if I have relatively little freedom in curriculum choices, I can tweak lessons to meet their real needs more effectively. By listening, I can truly honor the image-bearers that sit in front of me day after day. Silencing the loud and sometimes proud voices in my own head that are too prone to assume “Oh, I think he needs this….” or “I think she means that…,” when I listen, it is possible to hear. Really hear–and hear in a way that bears meaningful and multi-faceted fruit.

No matter where I work, the collective wisdom of my colleagues, young and old, waits to be mined. How very much we can learn from one another when we genuinely listen. As one who began honing my skills before SMART Boards and phone apps and interactive media came on the scene, the temptation some days is to feel like a quaint museum piece. I genuinely need my younger colleagues. But I know, too, how greatly I benefitted from the older teachers in my life, and thus my belief that inter-generational relationships in teaching can be win-win situations.

And lastly, if I am a guest in a country not my own, listening is essential if I am to understand why things are the way they are and how I can contribute to the greater good.

Listening may also include practicing reflective journaling for myself, or assigning journal-writing assignments for students, or organizing brown-bag lunches with colleagues for informal sharing. As James said, “Be quick to listen.” For those who follow the Master Teacher, ponder the many times that He asked a question, listened, and then responded in wisdom (in that order).

LISTEN WELL. Yea, excel in listening.

Regardless of how we define or practice listening, it is not time wasted, but is rather a gift given with returns of inestimable benefits.

[1] James 1:19, New International Version

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.

  • In your busy life as an educator (at home, school or church), how do you find or make the time to listen?
  • How does following the Master Teacher encourage you to be a better listener?
  • What have been some of the fruits of genuine listening in your life as an educator?

Post Author

Julie feels most at home with world travelers or international students, and no wonder since she lived in China for 17 years.  She taught university students in the capital and beginning level students in one of Western China’s most out-of-the-way places.  Now back at the university where she received her MA TESL, she teaches in their intensive English program.  Outside the classroom, she enjoys reading, relaxing in nature, and resting in the Master Teacher’s presence.

Photo Credit: Julie Prentice

2 comments on “Quick to Listen

  1. Ken Smith
    September 7, 2016

    How quick I have often been to speak when I should first have listened. A very good reminder.


  2. Julie Prentice
    September 8, 2016

    It’s a reminder that I need, as well. And the fact that I appreciate being heard helps remind me to listen.


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This entry was posted on August 24, 2016 by in Julie Prentice, silence, tips for new teachers.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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