Teachers play a critical role in the development of young people. No one gets anywhere without a teacher. Our first teachers – parents, grandparents, guardians, and foster parents – play an important part. Many children also have a pre-school/church teacher or a nanny/babysitter who plays a part in their development. Later, elementary, middle, and high school teachers help shape their knowledge base, belief systems, and character traits.
All teachers influence who a young person becomes. By interacting with these teachers throughout life, youth develop understanding, beliefs, and character — ways of knowing and doing — ways of being who they are.
Are you a teacher? If you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, foster parent, nanny, coach, pastor, or school educator, you are a teacher. How well do you teach? Are your messages helping the young people gain knowledge, skills, beliefs, and character to develop into stronger and better people?
We all become who we are as a result of the messages teachers Encourage, Listen, and Love. Teachers are the ones who T.E.L.L. young people throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Today, see your interactions with youth in a new way, as T.E.L.L.ing. Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love an empowering message. Any issue, T.E.L.L. Any victory, T.E.L.L. Any interaction, T.E.L.L.
- When you teach, your message allows the youth to discover new knowledge and/or skills.
- When you encourage, your message gives the support needed to step in a better direction – you give the younger person courage to know and try new ideas.
- When you listen, you understand them before you ask them to understand you.
- When you love your words and actions are compassionate and caring. Your message says, ‘I love you.’
Today, see your interactions as opportunities to T.E.L.L. the younger person in your life. Ask, “How am I teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving this younger person?” One thought, one action at a time. If you want a child to be better, show and tell them better.
If not you, then who? Teachers, you play a critical role in who the child becomes.
This past week on our Facebook page, we’ve been focusing on listening; specifically, the five types of listening. Listening is the first “L” in T.E.L.L. In case you missed any of the posts on Facebook, here is a recap. Which type of listening do you find yourself using the most?
Did you know there are five types of listening?
- Ignoring: If you’ve ever been ignored (and we all have), you know what it’s like. You’re not being paid any attention to at all. It’s easy to tell when you are being ignored, but it might not be as easy to realize when you are ignoring someone else. Unless, of course, you’re doing it intentionally. If ignoring is happening during an interaction, successful communication is impossible.
2. Pretending: Just like we are all familiar with ignoring, we’re probably all familiar with pretending to listen, either on the giving or receiving end. This is when you look like you’re paying attention to what someone else is saying, but in reality you’re thinking about something else and just going through the motions of listening… doing the “smile and nod.” Or maybe throwing in the occasional “yeah” or “uh-huh.” When one person is pretending to listen, the interaction is completely one-sided. No real communication can occur.
3. Selective: Selective listening is when one person involved in the interaction only wants to hear part of the message being communicated and often interrupts or tries to finish the other’s thought or sentence him/herself. They may only hear one part of the message and get hung up on that part, not bothering to listen to the rest of the message. Selective listeners aren’t able to communicate effectively because they haven’t heard the entire message.
4. Attentive: Attentive listeners pay attention to the speaker. They give their time and attention; they aren’t ignoring, pretending to listen, or listening selectively. They hear the whole message and can communicate back and forth during the interaction. One key component is missing from attentive listening, however, and that’s the fifth type of listening: empathetic.
5. Empathic: Empathic listening is intentional. It’s on purpose. If you are listening with empathy, you are listening to words AND meaning. You’re able to put yourself into the speaker’s shoes and hence able to better understand their message.
Author Stephen Covey puts it this way: “To truly listen means to transcend your autobiography, to get out of your own frame of reference, out of your own value system, out of your own history and judging tendencies, and to get deeply into the frame of reference or viewpoint of another person. This is called empathic listening.”
What is the power behind the words you speak?
Take one minute and ask yourself whether the words you use have the power to give life, hope, strength, and vitality. Or do your words offer discouragement, doubt, limitations, and defeat?
The power you give and receive is largely determined by the words you speak, which are guided by the thoughts you think. Either way, there is power in how you T.E.L.L. (in how you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love).
Today, consider the power you give and receive by words spoken and heard. Is that the energy you want to give the situation and relationship? If you happen to be interacting with someone who is building a future, which is every child, think twice about the power you give them by your words. There is power in the message you T.E.L.L.!
What power is behind the message you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love?
Teachers and parents often complain about how children, especially teenagers, give up too soon. The youth may try something once and conclude, “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know the answer.” As one teacher recently shared, “It’s like the student thinks, ‘If I don’t get it right the first time, I can’t get it at all.’ I try to tell them to keep trying, but they just sit there with a blank look on their faces and wait for me to tell them what to do. Drives me crazy!”
Would you accept that giving up is a learned behavior? Would you accept that:
- A child who gives up quickly has more life experience with either getting it right the first time or getting help as soon as they are not getting it right? Someone has stepped in and corrected their ways every time they try something.
- Or, around age 9, youth begin to develop the idea ‘I would rather not try at all than to repeatedly fail at something.’ That is, they get tired of experiencing failure when they are trying their best.
- Or, worst case, a child has been told by others that she is a failure and now the child perceives herself that way.
Bottom line: There are reasons youth give up.
I want to share an example of how adults unknowingly allow youth to learn the “give-up” behavior. Even though the example I share is from the classroom, I’ve witnessed a similar scenario in homes and around town.
As an consultant who focuses on educators leading students for learning, one of the common practices I witness is teachers stopping a child mid-sentence when the student’s explanation no longer appears to be 100 percent correct. The teacher listens while the explanation is valid and correct, but the minute the teacher hears something that may not be correct, s/he stops the child right then and there. (Now, if the response is completely off base, an interruption or redirection may be necessary; however, more times than not this is not the case.)
When teachers repeatedly interrupt responses, the consequence is that eventually fewer students respond. In time, only a few students are part of the learning conversations. The majority of students learn to only respond when they believe their response is 100 percent correct. Some students learn to not even try to figure it out because they know they will not be correct. “I don’t know” for them is the safest public response.
Instead, if a teacher allows a student to finish giving a explanation, the teacher can then extend the interaction by focusing on the ideas being presented. The teacher can point out the ‘good’ thinking, possibly complement this part of the explanation. Then the teacher can address the misconception, or limited understanding, by more questioning and instruction. For example, “Can you explain this one part?” Or, “You said (this), why do you think that?”
We must recognize that when a child is sharing his ideas, he believes he is correct. In the moment, he is expressing his understanding. You, with more knowledge, recognize the misunderstanding. He does not.
By having a conversation about a child’s thinking, a correction can occur naturally. The child most likely will not view his original response as wrong, but incomplete. He learns a better way to see the situation. He learns new ideas. He learns not to give up.
Today, think twice before you interrupt a child’s explanation – wherever the setting. Let youth finish their thoughts. Then let them know the part of their explanation which is positive, valid, and reliable. Talk in more depth about the misconception. Give them an opportunity to re-think and learn better ideas. By doing so, you give youth experiences to keep thinking and learning. You Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love for the sake of learning! When youth are learning, they are not giving up!
Throughout the Show & T.E.L.L. blog, I have shared how every interaction T.E.L.L.s (Teaches, Encourages, Listens to, and Loves) our perspective. You T.E.L.L. your perspective by your words and actions, and whoever you are interacting with T.E.L.L.s from their perspective. Everyone has their reasons for speaking and acting as they do. The better question is: Do we know why we interact the way we do? What are your reasons? What are their reasons?
Bottom line: We inform one another – we Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love – through our interactions. We also influence and transform family and vocational relations.
Since 2008, I have been sharing and clarifying the T.E.L.L. message with adult caregivers; however, I recently met with a group of teenagers to entertain the question: “Who T.E.L.L.s you?”
The youth were quick to mention how most adults tend to be impatient and only tell them what the adult wants. “No ifs, ands, or buts.” These teens believed very few adults interact intending to Teach, Encourage, Listen to, and Love them. They feel many of the interactions are one-way, from the adult to the youth.
As we continued our conversation, the teenagers brought up how most adults did not respect them. The collective opinion was that positive interactions should be built on a platform of mutual respect. The collective perception was, however, that adults who interacted with them from a platform of mutual respect was the exception, not the norm. As one of the teenagers concluded, “Very few adults make me feel like they respect me or my opinion.”
I asked what they thought a platform of mutual respect might look like.
Together, we decided that a platform of mutual respect was when the words and actions were not an endeavor to dominate, but to lead the way. Submission was not required just because of what another person wanted. The teenagers said they were happy to submit to the words and actions of an adult when they felt the message was given on the basis of respect and trust. That is, when the teenager felt the adult was giving advice that was built on learning and growing the relationship, not on domination.
This wasn’t the first time I have heard such ideas from youth. I witness and hear youth having experiences where they are being told what to do – no ifs, ands, or buts. I recognize that these interactions are needed at times, and that they can be effective; however, I often wonder if there are too many of these interactions and not enough interactions from a platform of mutual respect. How important is it for youth to experience these interactions, so they in turn practice mutual respect interactions? How can youth learn to use their words and actions not to dominate but to lead the way?
These teens talked about how they do not tend to reach out to adults when they need advice. Instead, they seek advice from their peer group because they interact with that group on a platform of mutual respect. Peers advising peers is one thing, but many times, wouldn’t an adult’s advice be more beneficial if the adult were to interact with a mind-set of guidance and support?
Leading the way for another should never be an endeavor to dominate. Parents, teachers, and other key adults on a child’s life path are responsible for leading the way for the youth. The adults in a child’s life influence and transform the youths’ views on relationships and situations. Additionally, these adults influence and transform the youths’ view on mutual respect.
Today, think about being more devoting and self-giving to the youth in your life. Build mutual respect. Consider how you can be better at T.E.L.L.ing the youth around you to seek your advice. When you ask youth to submit to your ways, make it be because you trust what you are saying is better for them in the long run.
Parents, teachers, and other key adults on a child’s life path are responsible for leading the way for the youth. The adults in a child’s life influence and transform the youths’ views on relationships and situations.
When faced with adversity or affliction, find teachers who encourage, listen, and love you. By interacting with them, you will more likely hear a better way to walk. You will more likely receive better guidance and support.
What the teacher speaks may not be exactly what you want to hear or do. It may cause extra effort on your part. It may not make perfect sense in the moment. Cooperate anyway.
By cooperating with your teacher, you are opening up the possibility to outshine your current self.
You cannot resolve adversity or affliction with the same thinking that got you there. You need new ideas. You need support and guidance. Seek out the teachers who T.E.L.L. you.
As you go about your day, think about who you trust in adverse or afflicting circumstances. Are these teachers ones you believe encourage, listen, and love you? Are these teachers ones who allow you to outshine your current self?
If your answer is “I don’t have such teachers in my life,” then think again. These teachers are right around the corner. Pause and pray. You must seek in order to find.