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Are You Listening?

Date: September 30, 2015 Author: hpelc Categories: Advocacy Blogs, Centre Philosophy Blogs, Educators Blogs, Reflection Blogs

Something that can be heard quite a lot whenever children are involved is, “Are you listening to me?”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Why aren’t you listening?”
“No one’s listening to me!”
We ask it to get recognition, or a sign that something has been said and something has been heard. We ask it as a prompt. “Hey. I’m talking here! A reaction is needed from you, the listener!”
The translation between speaking and listening however, is quite complex.
Something I read last week, gave me great reason to reflect. It was a quote.
“When we say children aren’t listening, what we really mean is, they aren’t being obedient.”
It’s a simple quote. But it gives you that perspective that just makes your brain click, and go “ahhhh!”
Obedience is necessary, to an extent. We obey the law as abiding citizens. Some people obey the rules of their religion, the rules of their families, and the rules of their culture. Obedience is a part of life. Often it is seen as a negative. Obedience implies no free will – no choice.
So when we say, “You need to be listening”, what can be heard by the child is, “You need to be doing what I tell you to.” And yes, in our childcare environment there are times when choice is limited, there are expectations of behaviour, expectations of sharing the environment as a group. However, what’s missing is explanation. When children have limited choice or when it’s time for things like a nappy change or time for bed, and they aren’t listening, consider: is an explanation due? Do they need more information?
It takes such little extra time to explain how sleep can help our bodies grow, how nappy changes help keep us clean and tidy and rest time allows us time to calm and relax ourselves. Often, when we provide more information, children understand in a positive way, why we do the things we do.
When discussing this quote with Julia in the office, she was reminded of a principal teaching. This was that children don’t always learn the way we teach, and that different children have different needs, and this means we, as educators, need to adapt and respond in various ways to various situations. When we ask, “Are you listening?” The child is already telling us no. No, they aren’t doing what we said, no they aren’t learning what we are trying to teach. So that’s when we need to reflect, think on our toes and change what we are doing, for the benefit of the child.
The Early Years Learning Framework provides plenty of information for educators on ways to respond to children and practices to use. Building strong relationships is a priority. Having those strong bonds and respect allows us to interact in positive ways, because the relationship is positive. When we get to know the children and their needs, we can respond to them. Being responsive to them allows them to feel heard and to feel important. We can then use strategies such as intentional teaching, learning through play and partnerships with families to teach the way children learn. Providing explanations, chances to learn through play, chances to roll play and figure out the child’s own thoughts, feelings and perspective on the world.
As educators, we know hand washing is incredibly important. We know nappy changes are necessary, and some children just really need that nap in the middle of the day. We know this, but do the children? Is it fair to assume they just need to do it, because we know they need it? Or is it fair instead, to provide knowledge and information, and appropriate choices so that our children can understand. When we provide information, and allow children to learn about life and the important bits of pieces of how to take care of ourselves and each other. This allows them time (and reason) to become independent and understand those moments when we have limited choices, with more clarity.
Next time you’re desperate to ask, “Why aren’t you listening?” maybe consider what other strategies you can try, how can you communicate effectively and respectfully, what needs to be changed so that more can be heard.
It’s by reflecting, that we learn to become our best versions of ourselves