An excerpt from, ‘Unearthing Why’, Jill’s book, co-authored with Clare Britt.
What if we re-imagined teaching as listening? Really listening. We once heard someone describe listening as, “coming into a conversation with a willingness to change your mind”. What a challenge – to come to a conversation or an encounter open to change. When we listen, we create opportunities for connection and the possibility of seeing something new. There is an inherent openness in such a stance. As we listen to children, we open ourselves up to seeing them, hearing them and being taught by them. As our desire to know and connect with others grows so does our determination to question, to listen and to hear. Our listening communicates respect and honours another’s perspective – even if the perspective contradicts our own. As well as assuming a relationship, listening requires time and commitment. It is not for the faint-hearted. When we listen we recognise that there is much we don’t know and much to learn from others.
Historically, teachers have been positioned as those we should listen to, with many teachers feeling an enormous pressure to have answers to questions even before they are asked. Teachers talk, students listen. When we imagine ourselves as those listening, we position ourselves as partners with the children in learning experiences, standing beside them, instead of in front of them. In this way learning becomes a co-construction – teachers with students, students with students. Dialogue and connection become our goals as we pursue understanding together.
“We embrace an approach based on adults listening rather than speaking, where doubt and amazement are welcome factors along with scientific inquiry and the deductive method of the detective.”
(Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998, p.115)
The above excerpt finishes with a quote drawn from The Hundred Languages of Children – a book which brings together a thorough exploration and discussion of the educational project of Reggio Emilia, Italy.