Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Importance of Listening


True confession: I'm bad at it. Too often, I am thinking about how to share my views, rather than really listening to what others are saying. And it gets me into trouble at times!

Switching places for a moment, it feels amazing when somebody is listening to you. Especially somebody with "power," somebody who can create change. I always feel so valued when people take the time to just listen! Often, I don't want or need a solution, but I want them to consider my viewpoint. I want to share (that's the human connection piece). I want to feel heard.

Over the past several weeks, I've been in situations with students, parents, and staff members where I have to check my natural instinct to talk and focus on being a listener. It's hard! But I believe it holds the power to build relationships, and that makes it worth it!

I am far from being an expert, but here are a few tips and tricks that I have been using to be a better listener:

1. "Tell me more about..."

Often, a pause in the conversation indicates an opportunity for the other person to respond. At times, though, there may be something that was left unsaid, and probing deeper brings us to the real heart of what is going on. Using that pause to say, "Tell me more" rather than "Here's what I think" often opens up a whole new level of understanding.

2. Silence is golden.

Silence is uncomfortable. We tend to fill it with words. But sometimes those words distract from the heart of the issue. Don't be afraid to let silence sit in a conversation. Sometimes it leads to further reflection and revelation, but sometimes it just serves to acknowledge that you are hearing and thinking about what was just said.

3. Don't interrupt.

Oh, this is so hard! Especially in conversations that are more controversial, it is so tempting to want to stop someone when they are saying something that is hard to hear or not accurate (from your perspective). But what does that do? Immediately put them on the defensive. More often than not, it is worth it to let them finish their entire train of thought and look for the deeper heart of the issue, rather than quibbling over details in a back-and-forth ping-pong match. Even in conversations that are benign, it's easy to want to interrupt with my agreement, my story or experience, or my take on the matter. Hold your tongue & don't do it!

How do you focus on being a good listener? Please share your tips & tricks in the comments below!

Saturday, December 1, 2018


As I sit here with Christmas decorations (mostly) up, enjoying the cozy light of the tree, it seems to be an appropriate time to write #MyRelaxing5. This blog challenge began with @msventurino, and has made its way through the #sunchatbloggers group, focusing on something educators are not always good at - taking time for ourselves.

If you know me IRL or have seen me online for any length of time, it's probably not a secret that I am a go-go-go type of person! I enjoy a fast-paced lifestyle, I love being involved in many different things, and I'm passionate about the work I do. The flip side of this is that I'm not good at resting. Or saying no. Or doing things for myself. But neglecting that side of life can definitely lead to burnout and not being as effective at...well...anything. This is the perfect time of the year for a reminder to slow down and take a moment to just relax.

Here are #MyRelaxing5, 5 non-work things that I will commit to doing for ourselves before the end of 2018.

1. Go on a vacation!

Okay, this is sorta cheating because I've already done it, but it was a big one! Once I left the classroom, I also left behind Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and summer. As a teacher, I was "told" when my time off was, and I took advantage of it! Now, I work year-round, and it didn't occur to me at first that I purposefully need to plan some chunks of time to take off. I've taken a couple of long weekends or time off to go to other conferences (which doesn't really count), but this is the first real, extended vacation I've taken in several years, making it worthy of inclusion on this list! I need to do this at least once per year, whether it's traveling out of the country or just taking days off for a staycation!

2. Making fun food

I always know my stress level is low when I feel like I have time to experiment in the kitchen. And what better time to cook than the holidays? Whether it's trying a new recipe or making my traditional Christmas fudge, I want to make time to play in the kitchen.

Image result for doing nothing cartoon 3. Sit on the couch and do nothing.

I'm serious. Sometimes the best thing I can do is...nothing. There's something relaxing about just saying no to deadlines, work-work, fun-work, volunteer responsibilities, chores, and everything else for a moment. It's hard to quiet my mind, but when I can get to that place of doing nothing and letting my thoughts wander, it's one of the most relaxing things in the world!

4. Reading

On my recent trip, lots of time on airplanes meant time to read. As I updated my "Books I've Read in 2018" list, I realized I hadn't finished a book in two months! Yikes. Somehow, between switching jobs and everything else I had going on, reading just got pushed to the bottom of the priority list. But it is something that brings me great joy! My recent "kick" has been reading books that are stories, whether nonfiction or fiction, of refugees, along with some professional reading to help me in my new role. I'm happy to say that over the past two weeks, I've read 7 books and am in the middle of #8. It feels so good to be back into it!

5. Making Music

One of my favorite relaxing things to do is to play piano. Or to play violin with friends. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is playing piano duets with my sister. It's time to practice! Making music always calms me, no matter how stressed I am, and provides a good, quick outlet for my creative juices. I want to play more before the end of 2018.

So there you go - #MyRelaxing5. Please feel free to ask and hold me accountable for actually doing these things!

What will you commit to doing for yourself by the end of the year? Share using the hashtag #MyRelaxing5, and don't forget to take care of YOU in this busy season!