Listening Work

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After realizing that I was much too quick to offer my opinion during a brief committee meeting recently, I considered submitting an empty blog and giving it the title “the value of listening.” 

But that might be misunderstood to mean that listening has no valuethat it yields nothing at all. Of course, that’s not my point. Listening requires an open page, a willingness to collaborate, a choice not to plan the next move. Listening requires that I attend to someone else without planning how to steer everything back to my own insights and commentary. 

Listening is resisting the urge to fill the blank page too quickly. 

Listening is hard work. It’s especially hard when you are listening to questions that do not yet need your attempt at an answer. 

I really needed to listen to the questions of my friends, colleagues, family, and students

  • Why are essays valued more highly than well-crafted and pithy Instagram captions?
  • When do we cross the line from writing with tools to letting the tools write for us?
  • What’s the most ethical way to use an AI detector?
  • Do these comments fit better in the Findings or the Discussion section of the article?Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon via UnsplashPhoto by Jonathan J. Castellon via Unsplash
  • Where is the original paginated version of this article? I can’t find it in the files.
  • Is what I am seeing in this group a lack of work ethic or a lack of knowledge? 
  • Why are faculty charged so much to have posters printed for conferences?
  • Why do I have to choose between committee meetings and professional development events?
  • Why can’t I count this class for my major and my minor?
  • Can we teach students to be more self-sufficient? Can we teach them to take more initiative? 
  • What am I doing wrong? 
  • Could you send me the link to ___________?
  • Why do we assume that people who are struggling need to try harder?
  • People assume that the technical problems come because I did not follow instructions. Why is that? Why do I have to send screen shots to prove I did what they said, but their instructions did not work?
  • Why won’t my laptop ever connect to the WiFi on campus?
  • Do you have time to look over this with me?
  • Do you think it’s ok if I _________________?
  • Will you criticize me if I complain for a minute?

When I stopped trying so hard to come up with impressive answers, I found my thinking stretched, and my desire to listen moreand to readwhetted further. 

What questions do you hear when you listen to colleagues and students?

About the Author
Miriam Moore is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Georgia. She teaches undergraduate linguistics and grammar courses, developmental English courses (integrated reading and writing), ESL composition and pedagogy, and the first-year composition sequence. She is the co-author with Susan Anker of Real Essays, Real Writing, Real Reading and Writing, and Writing Essentials Online. She has over 20 years experience in community college teaching as well. Her interests include applied linguistics, writing about writing approaches to composition, professionalism for two-year college English faculty, and threshold concepts for composition, reading, and grammar.