If changing the behaviors, habits, and practices of the human beings that work in our schools is key to transforming teaching and learning, then let’s take a moment to explore this important issue more deeply.
Let’s start with the best case scenario…someone who wants to change, someone who does not have to be forced into it, someone who feels that their old way of doing things is not serving them anymore. Let’s make this even more of an ideal situation; let’s say the person who wants to change is you.
After some reflection, you decide that you are going to become a much better listener.
You buy a book on the subject, “Are You Really Listening?: Keys to Successful Communication”. The book has many great recommendations and insights about listening. One insight that strikes you as important is the “Me Too!” Syndrome. When someone else is talking we often start thinking “This has happened to me too!” and when the person stops talking we drop into our “Me Too!” story. This is definitely something specific you’d like to change, so you make up your mind to focus on this the next time you are listening to someone.
As others speak you find yourself drifting into your “Me Too!” story and once you become aware of it, you force yourself to concentrate on what the other person is saying. You find that you only catch yourself now and then; and even when you do catch yourself, it is very difficult to stop the “Me Too!” voice that starts automatically in your head. It seems like you are always taking someone else’s story and relating it to yourself.
You begin to feel discouraged. It takes a lot of effort to do this. What’s worse is that when you successfully catch yourself sliding back to your old “not really listening” habits; you really aren’t listening; you’re caught up in your own internal conversation. You’re fighting yourself.
This is the dilemma of the Beginner. It feels so damn uncomfortable to do something new. You can recite all the recommendations of the book you read. You have read and talked so much about it with your friends and family that you could probably teach a course on listening. But…you still are not a good listener. You do not embody what you read and studied.
Many of us give up at this point. We feel awkward. We can’t deal with the discomfort and the lack of success. Before you know it, our decision to change has gone the way of our “New Year’s Resolution” to lose 10 pounds.
So how can we increase the chances that our decision to change will succeed?