Revolutionary Sunday School Teachers Listen to God, Members, and Prospects

Sunday 7th January, 2007

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Back on November 2, 2006, I wrote about a blog entry entitled, Revolutionary Sunday School Teacher Skills.  The five skills were looking, listening, questioning, touching, and affirming. In this entry, I'd like to elaborate on the teacher skill of listening.

Listening is not a skill taught well in American society today. Not so many years ago, families taught children that they were to be "seen and not heard." They were to listen and not speak unless they were spoken to. Many children today go to school without having learned the necessity to stop talking long enough to listen. Enough bits of this are learned that children and teenagers are able to participate in the learning process and ultimately graduate.

But frequently the listening that is learned is very shallow. It is listening merely to prepare an answer. It is acting like we are listening until we get a chance to respond. It is stopping our words long enough to allow the other person a few words before we talk some more.

Good listening is more than a pause in conversation. It is more than hearing the words or key phrases to which we need to respond. I read an article recently simply entitled, Listening Skills. It says listening has three steps: hearing, understanding, and judging:

  • HEARING.  Teachers must give attention to learners enough so that they actually hear what members and guests are saying. They must not be formulating their answer while listening, or they will miss some or much of what learners are saying. Teachers must give them full attention. Divided attention produces poor hearing results. Teachers must listen with all of their senses since 93% of communication is nonverbal, meaning that it includes body language, facial gestures, and tone. Without hearing, understanding and judging cannot be effectively done. Asking questions for clarification of what has been said is a good technique for successful teacher listening. A reflective counseling technique can be employed, "It sounds like you are saying...."
  • UNDERSTANDING.  Teachers who have done a good job of hearing what learners have said will be able to understand a much higher percentage of what was said. Still, a revolutionary teacher will not take for granted that he/she understood a learner. Words can have different meanings. When teachers have heard the words, they interpret them through their own understandings and filters. This means the teacher wanting to do a great job of listening will ask questions to verify that the understanding that was discerned was correct. Again, questions can be helpful: "When you said , did you mean...?"
  • JUDGING.  Many hear the word, "judging," and have negative thoughts. However, in the context of listening, judging means deciding your reaction to what was said. As teacher, you decide whether you agree with what was said. You decide how to respond to what was said. You decide whether to affirm, disagree, or clarify. You discern how to build on what was said. All of this hinges on making a judgment about what was said, whether in conversation or in class interaction.

Because you care, when you listen, take time to hear, understand, and judge. Use some of these tips offered in the article, Listening Skills, I referenced above:

  1. Give full attention to the person speaking.
  2. Make sure you mind is focused.
  3. Let the spe a ker finish before you begin to talk.
  4. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak.
  5. Listen for main ideas.
  6. Ask questions.
  7. Give feedback.

Investment in listening can pay big dividends. As teacher, remembe r to practice listening to God first. Teach your members and guests to do the same. Listen to each other. Teachers and classes who listen will likely see lives changed. Be revolutionary!

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