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Faculty learn how to listen

Stanley King Institute counselors visit to help teachers hear students

Sometimes just listening to a student’s problem is the most important step in helping her overcome it.

That was one of the pieces of advice all faculty and administration received from a program run by the Stanley H. King Counseling Institute Feb. 5.  The campus diversity committee planned a professional growth day for faculty to learn practical and relevant communication skills, said committee member and English instructor Deborah Banner.

Fellow English instructor Christopher Brinsley said he will be able to apply some of the skills from the program to his everyday teaching and interactions with students. He said secondary teachers  should be willing and interested in interacting with the emotional aspects of a student rather than just the intellectual, and should learn to do it in a way that’s not overbearing and intrusive.

“It reinforced my feelings about the importance of listening to students, of giving them support, while at the same time allowing them to work through issues for themselves but not by themselves,” he said.

Institute counselors did sample role playing and guided teachers and administrators through sample scenarios for student discussions, introducing some basic skills of active listening, such as asking good clarifying questions to help both the student and teacher better see the issue, and empathizing with the student without imposing on them. One key element discussed was the need for adults to resist trying to relate to the students by sharing their own stories.

Banner, who also attended the Stanley King summer institute, said faculty shouldn’t assume that their own past experiences give them a complete understanding of students today.

Banner said the most important thing she learned was how to really listen to students and separate academics from personal issues.

“The program doesn’t teach you to be a counselor, but to pay attention to what students are actually concerned about,” Banner said.  “The more able you are to understand what your students are experiencing, the better you will be able to teach them.  The better we get at hearing and understanding a student perspective, the better we will be able to communicate as respectful human beings.”