The Culture of Listening


Working with peers is a gift we give ourselves. The ability to think collectively while sharing our individual strengths is a skill we need to nurture in early childhood settings. Often when we come together, we compete for time in the conversation. Our very isolation in our classrooms, cause the words to spill out from us when we come together. The need to be heard and supported leaves us waiting to speak, rather than listening with intention.

What happens when we embrace a culture of listening?

I am spending the weekend with two colleagues, who over the course of the last eight months of video conversations have become great friends in system thinking. We decided to meet in person after working online for many months. In planning our time together, we set aside time for our words to tumble over each other---we had dinner, told stories, and laughed.

At the end of the first day, I realized that many of the bumps that I had in our online conversations had disappeared by being in the same room. While online, pacing had always been a point of tension, but sitting together eliminated that stress as we came to understand each other’s body language and gestures.

At the end of the second day, I reflected that we were having deep, authentic conversations, the ones that we have when we commit to an extended period of time together. It made me realize that slowing down and connecting in person is an important value that we need to hold in our work. Slowing down is not a new concept; my trip is a reminder to me of its importance.

In lives that are very busy, we often skip the foundations that make us successful and fulfilled in our practice. Taking time to authentically hear each other, to listen for understanding, and not just waiting to speak, will fundamentally change how we engage in our practice as early childhood educators. Creating protected time for connection and conversations is not a luxury but a necessity of practice.

How will you create protected time for conversation with a colleague?