The Art of Listening


Schools are not buildings, curriculums, and machines. Schools are relationships and interactions among people.

(Johnson & Johnson, 2019)

I hope everyone is enjoying a productive and pleasant year of rejuvenating experiences. As we continue through this school year, I hope you can share my sense of excitement, rejuvenation, and anticipation of what will be a tremendous year of growth for our students and our staff.

As I will suggest on countless occasions during the course of this year, our success as people will depend to some extent on our specific skills and the breadth of our knowledge base. However, I firmly believe that our character and our human relations skills are even more vital to the ultimate success we experience with our students and our entire school community. Let’s focus on these human relations skills as we embark upon a noble journey: teaching young people who need and crave our guidance!

Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.

Be able to laugh (have a good sense of humor) and cry (display empathy

and sensitivity).

Take time to help others.

Remember how it felt to be a child.

Be able to resolve conflicts between people.

Enjoy working with people of all ages.

Truly care about others.

Realize that you can’t please everyone.

Be optimistic about people’s motives.

I do enjoy our staff meetings and our other large group gatherings, but I understand the emphasis on individualized interactions playing a key role in the success of any work culture, including school buildings and individual classrooms. This is applicable as we work with each other and as we work with our students and parents for the remainder of this school year. One of the primary skills we must possess in order to establish positive interpersonal relations is the seemingly simple skill of listening. It is of paramount importance that we listen: to our students, our parents, and perhaps most notably to each other. As important as it is for us to be active listeners, it is equally important that our students do likewise. Highlight the following aspects of effective listening in your own practice and in teaching our students to listen:

Make eye contact.

Give your undivided attention.

Send nonverbal signals that you are interested and that you care.

Don’t shuffle papers or continue writing when someone is with you

Be able to restate or paraphrase what is being said when appropriate.

Don’t interrupt. Even though this may happen to us, guard against sending

the message that you do not have time to listen.

The more we listen, the more we learn. Listening often allows us to quell conflicts. Moreover, through engaged listening we experience the importance of seeing things from the other person’s perspective. By effectively listening to others, we enable ourselves to really know another person, thereby improving our little world, however slightly. Encourage our students to engage in the above listening techniques.

I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I always encourage my sons and grandchildren and all young people to respond to adults by saying, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.” As a teacher and principal, I expected my students to respond in such a way. As I stressed to them every day, they would say that this simple gesture would not change their life. If used consistently over time, however, I knew it would have a positive impact upon their lives.

At times, we become so overwhelmed that making the time to truly listen gets shortchanged. I know that I am often guilty of this myself. Thanks for listening to our students, our parents, and each other. Thanks also for letting me know if and when I am not doing the same. This school year CCSD will continue to transform into a school district that our community can be proud of. I encourage you to be a participant and speak the good of what you know. We spend far too much time concentrating on all the things we do not like and the people around us are passing us by and progressing to greater heights. Wouldn’t it be great if CCSD could be known as the Innovator for Change!! I believe that can happen but we need each of you to build this community of learners.

Thank you all for the human relations skills you already possess and practice daily. You hold the keys to success for our students; unlock their hearts and their minds.

With Much Respect,

Vallerie Cave

Superintendent of Schools