|My kids, all grown up!|
Don't get me wrong. I am attached to my tech devices: taking photos, checking email, texting friends and family, but I am growing painfully aware of the costs associated with non-stop information and consumption on our most valuable relationships: missing out on important face to face moments with our students, colleagues, and loved ones.
This year, in my first year teaching 4th grade, I was shocked at how often I would ask students to look at me to show they were listening to me. This was not an outright sign of disrespect from them as much as it was a product of our culture. When I asked if they looked at each other while talking at home, many students exclaimed: "My parents are always looking at their phones!" I encouraged them to say, ever so politely, to their parents: "Please look at me, so I know you are really listening." I fervently checked my email over the following few days, certain that someone would be angry at my lesson to their children, but not one ever arrived. Maybe no one went home and asked..though I hope they did. I continued to request that students look at each other as they shared ideas in the classroom. Eventually, it became a norm...well..at least some of the time!
Of course, I then became aware of my own behavior: when I was not looking at someone talking to me! I often caught myself multi-tasking when others talked to me, cleaning up or writing an email when another teacher came to my room to visit, or picking up papers while a student was asking me a question; I consciously made a point to stop and fully listen. After all, if a huge percentage of communication is non-verbal, what am I missing by not using the incredible sense of vision that allows me to see the person's revealing facial expression and expressive body language?
So, please, especially when interacting with children, look them in the eyes. ( or show them full presence in a way that makes sense in their culture) For that matter, make it a habit with everyone. Let them know you are fully listening. The rewards are certainly worth it!