Teaching a Teacher to Listen

Oct 07, 2014

Twenty one precious children count on Beth Wille each day to understand their needs.

Two of them are her teenage daughters; the other 19 are the five and six-year-old students in her Aspen, CO kindergarten class. So when Beth had the opportunity to take Barry-Wehmiller’s Communication Skills Trainingthrough the Our Community LISTENS program in Aspen, she jumped at the chance.

“My classroom gets pretty crazy at times and I spend my days doing a delicate dance between listening and talking,” Beth said. “The course helped me realize how much I was rushing my communications. It made me see how I wasn’t being a good listener because I was always multitasking. Now I recognize that I need to stop what I’m doing, slow down and truly listen.”

Many of Wille’s kindergarten students have speech and language challenges so effective listening is critical.  “Last week during Circle Time, one of my students was very excited to share what she had accomplished that weekend but, because of her language difficulties, all that came out of her mouth was ‘Ride horse,’” said Beth.

Prior to the Communications training, Beth said she likely would have exclaimed “Awesome!” in praise of the girl’s contribution to Circle Time and moved on quickly to the other kids in the circle.

“This time I remained focused on her, giving her the gift of my complete attention,” she continued. “I asked her a few questions, leading her to what I knew she was capable of. She was able to rephrase her story, saying ‘I went horseback riding.’ She was thrilled with her accomplishment.”

Stopping what we are doing to intently focus our attention on the person sharing a message is the easiest way to let them know they matter. When we give them the gift of our complete attention, it validates their worth.

“I may only have them in my classroom for a year,” Beth offered, “but by modeling good listening behaviors I hope I can help these 19 future adults become better communicators. Plus I’ll hear more of all the great things those amazing little minds have to say,” she said.

Beth is also practicing the reflective listening techniques the course taught her at home with her family. Simple changes in her body language—leaning in, not crossing her arms, looking directly at her teenage daughters or husband when addressed by them–are proving helpful to inviting open communication and showing them she is ready to connect on a deeper level.

“Quality connection time with my husband and two daughters takes work. Using what I learned about listening encourages them to share more but, more importantly, helps me to be more present. I want to suck up every juicy morsel of what they have to say. And every time I don’t because I’m too rushed or distracted is a time or a conversation I will never get back. I don’t want to miss these moments to connect.”

When we hear stories from people like Beth who have benefited from what we’ve discovered inside Barry-Wehmiller, we are reminded of the power our business has to not only positively impact our team members, but build a better world. And now Beth, dedicated teacher of 19 and devoted mother of two, is helping to build one too.

How often do you give your full attention to those you lead? To those you love?

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