Bird Droppings May 2, 2011
Can we offer another ear?
“Hearing is one of the body’s five senses. But listening is an art.” Frank Tyger
After trying to find out who is Frank Tyger I have to resolve that I still do not know for sure, there are no Wikipedia pages to reference a sure sign no high school student ever did a biography of him. However as I mulled through numerous articles I found he was a on the staff of the Trenton Times for thirty five years till his retirement in 1992. Many of his political cartoons made it through the national media in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. However it was his humorist style to his editorials that left a mark and when looking for quotes his are numerous.
“Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your door very softly.” Frank Tyger
“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.” Frank Tyger
Many years ago I went to hear Harry Chapin in concert actually I went several times to be honest. For some of you who live near Atlanta you will be familiar with the Fox theatre on Peachtree Street. Our high school just had their Prom there and all loved it. This grand building is considerably over ninety years old and the acoustics are unbelievable. Harry came out with his band and played and as always he had the audience eating out of his hand. Like many shows after a point there would be a short break and of course then they would be back. Some folks went to get drinks etc. a few us stayed seated just mellow from the music. The curtain parted and Harry walked on stage with a harmonica.
He sat down on the edge of the stage with no microphones and started playing. The notes filled the room and soon not a sound was to be heard by the melancholy melodic playing and singing of Harry Chapin. He proceeded to sing and in that theatre that night you could hear tears trickling down cheeks of the audience. As I think back today I do not remember the words or the song he was singing but the emotions were overwhelming. I read this quote from Frank Tyger earlier and remembered that night listening to Harry Chapin as he totally enthralled an audience. It is definitely true that listening as an art form.
“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich
Years ago sitting in a dark class room and sitting through lectures on New Testament theology at the Candler School of Theology I recall how we were to compare and contrast Paul Tillich and Carl Barth, two great theologians of the twentieth century. It was many years till I could get myself to actually read Tillich’s words without thinking about the tedium of that classroom. I wonder how many students we have who think the same way about us as we stand before them trying to teach whatever subject it is we teach.
“Teachers report their overriding classroom concern is that students do not listen. The author of this book believes that listening attitudes, skills and behaviors need to be given renewed emphasis in today’s classrooms. However, without the proper tools, clear goals and ready examples, busy teachers find it difficult to teach, practice, and model listening. This text provides the practicing teacher and future educators with user-friendly rationale valuing listening, as well as examples and practical strategies to teach appreciative listening through a variety of curricular areas. Appreciative Listening: the Forgotten Art is ready for immediate classroom implementation.” Appreciative Listening: The Forgotten Art, by Constance Hoag, Ed. D.
I was envisioning a class room of students and their teacher standing in front of the room yelling you are not listening to me. Will you listen to me now? “Teach, practice and model listening,” is what the author Dr. Hoag states so clearly. Why do students not listen? The easy answer may be the teacher has nothing to say of interest to them. Maybe they do not know how to listen is another easy answer. Maybe they do not want to be there in that room at that moment. I started thinking back to Harry Chapin singing at the Fox no microphone all alone on the stage and every ear attuned to each note and each syllable. As I thought that could have been just as easily that classroom at Candler and the professor with a monotone voice dryly lecturing on Tillich and Barth or it could be my class room in Loganville High School. Why did I listen to Harry Chapin and not to Professor Monotone? Why does a typical student want to sleep or do make up or write notes to their boyfriend or girlfriend when the teacher is teaching or as I did in high school draw cartons for the school newspaper?
“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” Kenneth A. Wells
“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch 46 AD – 120 AD
Teaching and or life skills number one the victim, student, or listener has to want to be there. They have to actively want to be listening and that sounds redundant. If a student does not want to be in that room or lecture how much more difficult is it to get their attention. Harry Chapin had no microphone and was addressing several thousand people in a large five thousand seat auditorium and we wanted to hear every word he sang. For parents, teachers and friends, be an active listener set the example first. In coming back to Dr. Hoag’s advertisement for her book above in the quote, model listening. Set the example and want to hear what your children and or students are saying. Who knows they may return the favor.
In a class room getting the interest sparked can be difficult but not insurmountable. Erich Fromm the great psychologist has written about “The Art of Listening” and maybe teachers and parents need to pay attention. Let us assume it is an art form and therefore open to interpretation to perception to different views and likes and dislikes. We need to be aware not all what we hear but to what we say the same way and in turn plan to respond accordingly. Start by being an avid listener and hear what and why then work on students listening to you. Practice listening and even have listening exercises. I often will play different types of music and get responses during the day just to check listening. I have used Hopi rain dance music which is not really popular yet when the “Lonesome Dove” or “Last of the Mohicans” sound track or Carlos Nakai are playing students never miss a beat and to date have never complained. Listening we do not do enough so please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.