I enjoy spending time in our campus high school classes. I swing through as often as I can. At first, students look at me like, “Ok, who is in trouble?” But,
I am rarely there for discipline. I am there for encouragement and support.
I enjoy knowing what is happening in classrooms from the perspective of our students and from the perspective of our staff.
I love seeing how Mr. Goodman brings out a student’s inner-artist; how Miss. Maxwell prepares her grade 8s for the Medieval Feast; how Mr. Dorie runs a class discussion; how Mr. Hayden pushes his students to consider the example of Daniel – a scholar dedicated to God, profound in knowledge among his culture. I could go on for all our staff – highlighting the meaningful skills and attributes they bring to our Heritage team.
But I would like to take time now to highlight an activity that Mrs. Dyck, our new high school Humanities teacher, is doing in her classes.
The activity is called Socratic Circles. In a nutshell, the Socratic Circle is a tool used to facilitate group discussion and to develop deep listening skills. The group prepares for dialogue on a specific topic. The participants arrange themselves into one of two groups: the inner circle for discussion, or the outer circle for listening and feedback.
For more information, I’ve written a blog post on Socratic Circles here. It was written mostly by Mrs. Dyck and it explains this process in greater detail. Or, ask a grade 9 or 10 student for their feedback. Also, here is a nice .pdf I found on google that outlines a Socratic Circle.
So, why am I highlighting Socratic Circles? I wonder if in our Social Media culture – full of connectedness, instant information, text-communication, and digital popularity, might we be losing our ability to listen? Students in Mrs. Dyck’s classes are learning to truly listen, reflect, and respond.
I know they are learning because (no offence to our grade 9 & 10 students) they are not doing the Socratic Circles very well. I have observed 4 class discussions using this tool and I have yet to see a true discussion. It appears to be a discussion…because students are speaking one-at-a-time…and because they are all politely waiting their turn to speak. But, when they do speak, instead of reflecting and building on the previous statement, they offer a new idea to consider. Although this contains the mechanics of dialogue, this is not true dialogue.
Socratic Circles are very difficult. Our students are finding them difficult because they must listen, reflect, and respond to move the original topic further. They cannot simply jump in with a new direction. They must listen deeply to be able to build clarity and understanding. It is called a Socratic Circle because the underlying tool moving the dialogue forward is simply this:
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” I know this verse speaks to Paul fulfilling Christ’s call in his life. But I can relate the first words, “Not that I have already obtained all this,” relating to my own listening. I have so much to learn. I am so selfish in my time with others – wanting to get my points across.
To test your listening awareness, consider these questions:
Do you notice when someone jumps into a conversation and takes it over?
Do you notice when someone cuts someone else off mid-sentence, or finishes their sentence for them?
Do you notice others waiting for someone to finish what they are saying so they can say what they’ve been waiting to say?
…now try with the questions above with ‘you’ as the subject…
I’ve got a few people in my life that, when I finish a conversation with them, I realize I have not found out anything more about them. Without knowing it, I’ve done all the talking…because they have asked all the questions. Hmm, it’s no surprise why I enjoy talking with them…
This Christmas season, will we take time to truly listen to those around us? Could we ask God to open up one conversation for us – to give us one chance to listen deeply? Could we commit to listening deeply to one person? I believe this deep listening could be a wonderful gift to someone this Christmas.
In closing, I am reminded of a timeless quote from Stephen Covey. It so effortlessly captures why relationships and listening are so hard to develop.
“(With people) if you want to save time, don’t be efficient. With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”
May we give the gift of deep listening to someone this Christmas season.