Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How do you communicate with children? Use conscious listening.

In the Montessori classroom, respect of the child and relationship with the child are paramount. Children see our looks and our expressions, along with the words. We have to observe their behaviors and mannerisms as much as their words to us-- to listen to them, before we can communicate a message to them.  We spend 60 percent of our communication time listening but only retain 25 percent or less. We use patterns and differencing to focus on sounds that apply to us and use a range of filters that determine what we pay attention to, such as intention. Perhaps, one could say that time is the best way of experiencing the passage of time. The media screech in louder headlines, urging our attention, when careful listening is the access to understanding.

Conscious listening tools:
  1. Access quiet-- at least five minutes a day. 
  2. Spend time observing multiple channels of sound, differentiating. 
  3. Savor mundane sounds, the hidden choir
  4. Play with the filters of listening positions-- active/passive, intentional/holistic, etc
  5. Receive, appreciate, summarize, ask: RASA
 Derived from my notes on the TED Talk by Julian Treasure.

We cannot become conscious listeners until we can separate our expectations of what we would like to hear from what we are actually listening to. It is easier to revert to small data bits, to latch onto only those, rather than the whole piece of information. We must arrive at a point when we can look at the child, beyond the data. The child is not 'crying for attention'-- what message is the child trying to communicate?

It is important to remember that the work of listening is more than just physical listening. We can say, just a moment, but take special care not to forget that the child has something to communicate. How many times to we sit and observe in our own class, waiting for children to speak and listen to you?

Go down to their level. Look at their faces. Gesture openness in body language. Respect the time they need to find the words. Observe without judgment. The objective is to convey, "I am listening. I care."

Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 


  1. Fantastic! First time I have seen this!

  2. Thank you, Jackie. I hope to memorize these guidelines to help me this fall.