What Did You Say? Let Me Think About It.

posted Mar 12, 2013, 9:13 PM by Dawn Gernhardt   [ updated Mar 13, 2013, 7:59 AM ]

Listening is a sign of respect because if someone isn’t listening, they aren’t valuing what you have to say. If you’re not worth listening to, then what are you worth to that person?  So listen. But, listening takes skill and a bit of selflessness.

The article about listening puts the teaching second, after listening (even though listening is in the title), because how can you teach if you haven’t listened. If you teach before listening, you’re “assuming your way is the only correct way” (Weissglass, p. 30). I want to listen to all my students, especially my minority students.

As a teacher, I gleaned from “The Voices of Young Black Males,” that I need to show young black males “black males who are traditionally successful.” I think it will help that there is an African-American man in the oval office—that is a huge example, but it cannot be the only example. I also need to show other minority groups people who are successful from their cultures and backgrounds. (Sparrow and Sparrow, p. 43)

When responding to “what stands in the way of their academic success” young, black men responded regarding things outside of a teacher’s control, such as their family and parental situation. However, they also mentioned some things that are in my control, such as helping to reverse their thinking when students, “think they can’t make it.” I can teach lessons to help the class understand how they and other cultures have been “brainwashed and socialized to believe that the darker your skin is, the less capable you are.” I can discuss success stories, and help uncover the negative thinking in our classrooms and society. We can review, analyze, and dispel the “negative influence of rap music and its messages about the desirability of material things.” My students and I can work through options and “choices,”and my classroom will provide a place where all students “belong,” because I will go “above and beyond” to make school meaningful” for them. (Sparrow and Sparrow, p. 46)

To make school meaningful for all students, as “Plato, wrote in The Republic, ‘There should be no element of slav­ery in learning. Enforced exercise does no harm to the body, but enforced learning will not stay in the mind. So avoid compulsion and let your children’s lesson take the form of play’ (trans. 1941).”  I understand that Weissglass included this quote in her article to inspire us. I know that I have to look outside of the element of slavery inherent in the “you must go to school” edict our nation prescribes to for all students—minority and otherwise. They must stay in my classroom. They must do good work to graduate.

Weissglass isn’t saying we have to stop requiring students to read, write, and participate in the classroom with assignments teachers lead. However, teachers need resources and time to let the students’ minds travel to their dream project, their true and fulfilling expression of self in as many assignments as possible. I constantly consider how much choice and freedom, fun, and interest I can add and allow—the control I can give up. Every day I work on finding a middle ground and avoiding, “either” “or” thinking. There is always a creative option, and I don’t always have to be the one to find it—students and I can join our thinking in powerful ways. I will “take them seriously, thoughtfully in­teract with them, nurture, engage and honor them — and don’t humiliate, ridicule or stifle them.”

Causes of disrespect to students include the following.

1. Adult fear of challenges presented by young people’s thinking.

2. Aristotle wrote, “All men by nature desire to know.”

3. Confusion about young people’s abilities and intelligence.

4. Adults mistake lack of information, skills, and capa­bilities for lack of intelligence. This confusion causes adults to require performance rather than to nurture young people’s inherent curiosity and intelligence.

5. Pressure from societal institutions to preserve the status quo in the society.

6. A false assumption that young people won’t learn without pressure, rewards, and punishment.”

 Things we can do as educators are as follows.

1. “Decrease the role of standardized testing in evaluating student progress.

2. Strengthen all students’ first language, while supporting all students’ fluency in a second language.

3. Promote young people’s creative endeavors and incorporate play into learning activities.

4. Engage and support learners in pursuing their own interests, distinguishing between respect and permissiveness, and connect curriculum  to students’ culture whenever possible.

5. Completely respect young people as emotional and intellectual human beings.

6. Encourage communication and cooperation.


T. Sparrow and A. Sparrow. (February 2012) “The Voices of Young Black Males” Kappan.

J. Weissglass. (March 2012) “Listen First, Then Teach” Kappan (v96 N6).