November 30, 2022
In today’s world, there’s a lot of talk about teaching kids to talk to each other—and for good reason. But as a former middle and high school teacher and administrator, I wish we were thinking strategically, not just about teaching self-expression—but also, about listening!
In most schools, assessment of listening skills stops after or around second grade (when students stop being evaluated on whether they follow directions), except for foreign language classes. However, in our tech-centric and polarized world, listening is a skill that can—and must—be explicitly taught and assessed through adolescence.
Listening is hard for Gen-Z students: 1) short attention spans (it’s hard to pay attention long enough to deeply engage with someone else’s point), 2) discomfort with mono-tasking (it’s hard to focus fully on someone else, especially without a device), and 3) low intellectual resilience (it’s hard to listen to an idea you disagree with, especially in a world where algorithms feed you content you find pleasant) are but a few challenges kids face in active listening. These challenges compound age-old reasons why listening is hard, like how to listen instead of just thinking about what you want to say next!