One Little Word

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“Mommmm! You’re not even listening to me!”

And I wasn’t. My nine year old was right; I hadn’t heard a word that she said during the last two minutes. Maybe it was because I was trying to make dinner. Maybe it was because a pile of ungraded papers was staring at me from the kitchen table. Most likely it was because it was 4:30 pm, and I had about thirty-two browser tabs open in my brain at once.

So, I put down the knife and the green beans. I sent my other two kids off to their rooms to straighten up, and I looked at her and said, “You’re right. I wasn’t. Start over. From the beginning.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about my one little word for 2014. Yes, it has taken me a long time. In my defense, every time I started to warm up to a word, someone would tweet a new and fabulous post about that word, and I would be back to square one. But, I know I have it now, and I have my daughter to thank for it. My one little word for this year is listen.

Being one of those type A personalities, I am all about “the plan.” The lesson plan. The unit plan. The plan for dinner. The nightly homework plan. The plan that will get my errands done in the shortest amount of time, with the fewest amount of children crying by the end. And although I gather a great sense of security from having it all planned out, and a great sense of accomplishment when a plan goes well, I’ve been realizing recently that there are some pretty great things that happen when I scrap the plan and start to listen.

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Like when my student Jenny kept telling me that she was trying to finish her current book as quickly as possible, so that she could get to what she really wanted to read. The plan: Finish the book, because you’re already half way done with it, and you know my two-chapter rule. Me listening: Abandon that book so you can read what you love now!

Or when my reluctant reader Chad abandons every book I put in his hands and returns to yet another book about snakes. The plan: You have to read a variety of genre to grow as a reader this year. Me listening: Read every snake book you can get your hands on, because I know you are actually reading, learning, and engaging in what matter most.

The plan: Read Charlotte’s Web as my next read aloud, because I’ve done that for the last ten years, even though I know I heard groans coming from the three boys at table five. Me listening: Let me tell you about these books that I absolutely love, and we’ll choose what our next read aloud will be together.

And most importantly, when my children come to me and want to talk while I’m cooking dinner, grading papers, writing lesson plans, saving the world…whatever. The plan: Let me finish what I’m doing, and then I’ll give you my full attention. Me listening: I want to hear what you have to say RIGHT NOW, because you are more important than any of my plans.

And that, I think, is a pretty good word and a pretty good plan.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “One Little Word

  1. Kim T.

    Wow. This is so totally me as well. My word for the year is BALANCE. I love your metaphor of your brain having so many browser tabs open at once!

  2. Barbara Santilli

    You amaze me….always have, always will. You have…and are….such a gift!

  3. Al

    I’m so glad you found this word. I feel this is the most forgotten word because of our fast paced society. We can learn so much just taking the time to listen. Well said Jenn.

  4. Natalie Scaffidi

    I loved reading this, Jenn! Im a planner too, so I could definitely relate! I agree with kim about the metaphor you used…good one.

  5. I agree. This attentive listening is so important. Not only are you listening. You are really attending to their needs and forsaking your own plans, realizing that they will always understand their own needs better than you can. Well done!

  6. A great word and a great reminder to us all.

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