When I started teaching, a former teacher of mine wrote to congratulate me. She also shared some good advice: “Bill,” she wrote, “don’t forget that teaching is leading and leading is listening.”
I don’t know if I was a great listener when I was young—scratch that: I was not a good listener when I was young—but I tend to think of young people and listening a little like I think about Intravenous therapy (a therapy, as we know, that delivers fluids directly into a vein and a patient). We tend to absorb more than we listen when we are young and often unconsciously. Things are said to us, and we nod and say, yes-yes-I get-it, and then we go and do it again. How many times do I have to tell you?
My mother used to say, “Always be kind. You never know what another person is going through.” It’s hard to imagine any healthy young person fully understanding that statement, but, in time, I can’t say when, I understood.
My father used to say, “Don’t cut corners now or you will cut them all of your life.” I heard it hundreds of times, and I still managed to cut corners. And then I didn’t. I have been listening ever since.
My parents said these things because they love me, and like the good child I was, I did my best to ignore them. The truth is I wasn’t listening because I wasn’t ready to listen. When I grew older, their words came back to me and eventually I knew how to love them as they loved me. Denver psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, suggests there is a connection between the way that we love and the way that we listen. She writes, “Because such a big indicator of loving is listening, a great listener is a great lover.”
I would probably get into trouble if I suggested that at St. Anne’s we are all about creating great lovers, but, if you remove any sexual connotation, this is exactly what we are about. We hope that our students will fall in love with learning. We hope that our students will love themselves and their neighbors. We hope our students will love the natural world. And we certainly hope that our students will love their time at St. Anne’s.
Our theme this year is Leading by Listening. It’s an appropriate theme for my first year, it’s a way for me to make sure I continue to follow the great advice I received as a new teacher, and I think we can all agree that the world needs more of it.
Thank you for listening.