I advice you to try this "simple" test, then you can go on with my story (there's a happy ending, I assure!)
P.S.: click on the chosen answers and then on the Next button, of course...
The genius-in-a-book had just gone to sleep into his book (page 62 of “Effective teachers” bible) but I was full awake and just kept on turning and turning in my bed. How could he sleep so deeply among the paper sheets of a book while I couldn’t in my silk sheets and feather mattress and cushions? “Well, this is certainly a case of teacher’s problem… “ I thought, but what if the problem’s is the student’s? However, in this case the student’s problem becomes your own, as it usually happens when an adult is in charge with children or teenagers. When I finally fell into sleep I had a strange dream; actually, more than a dream it was the memory of an incident happened some days before: Ernesto, my typically ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) case student who, in old times, would simply have been labeled as a naughty badly-behaved boy… smashed the jar where his friend Ciro kept his pet Lizzy (if you don’t know, Lizzy is... or was… a nice greenish lizard) apparently for no reason. Obviously Ciro was very upset and grieved over Lizzy for a full week but, inexplicably, Ernesto looked sadder, if possible, than Ciro and, as he confessed to friends, his behaviour seemed puzzling even to himself. I woke up very tired in the morning but I managed to get to the end of the day when I knew Gordon, the genius-in-a-book, would give an answer to my questions. In fact there he was, jumping off from page 62 as fresh as a May rose sprinkled with drops of dew.
Witchy: “So, what am I supposed to do as a teacher, if the problem is not mine but the student’s?”
Gordon: ““First of all, students’ problems quickly become yours, you should know that by now..., since all students who have problems cannot focus on learning and become easily disruptive during classes. Secondly, often it is the student himself who tries to talk about his problem. You only have to listen”.
Witchy: “What if he refuses to speak?”
Gordon: “There’s no such thing as silence: silence is the dead’s voice. I am supposed to be dead and, in spite of that, I have a magnificent tenor voice… Listen to me: VINCERO’ VINCERO’ VINCEEEROOOOO’…”
Witchy: “You’re no Pavarotti so will you please stay focused on the topic!!”
Gordon:“OK! Kids who keep silent are certainly trying to communicate something through their silence. You should have understood by now, in your one-hundred-forty-year teaching career, that teenagers find it very difficult to keep their mouth shut up”.
Witchy: “Yes I noticed…"
Gordon: “So in the case of a kid who keeps stubbornly silent you’ve to draw words from him by using a magic technique: the Method III or Active listening!”
Witchy: “This involves the existence of two more methods…
Gordon: “Yes! Method I is the mixture of all the mistakes you dumb teachers make when unconsciously erecting the twelve barriers to communication. Method II is called Passive Listening. You just keep on listening and sometimes you interval your silence with unarticulated meaningless sounds like Uhmmm… I see… “
Witchy: “That reminds me of a friend of mine who married a very talkative woman. He could manage to bypass eighty-four years of his wife’s soliloquies by feed-backing her, every now and then, with four preset answers: “Yes yes… No no… I’m so sorry… I’m so happy…” His wife is still convinced her husband is a very sympathetic listener… “
Gordon: “Teenagers are far smarter than your dumb friend’s wife! They can immediately spot a fake interest in adults and you’ll lose them for ever! So you’d better try Method III Active listening!”
Witchy: “Tell me!”
Gordon: “This is by far the most effective listening skill:
You should try not to convey an actual message but instead mirror what the child is saying. Active listening differs from passive listening because the person who is listening is actively demonstrating an understanding of the speaker’s message by reiterating what the speaker has said in the listener’s own words”.
Witchy: “I’ll try it tomorrow as soon as I see Ernesto!!”
Gordon: “Good luck!!
The day after I saw Ernesto glooming in his desk, last row left side by the window. I waited for break time, then I got over him when his friends were in the play yard .
Witchy: “Hi Ernesto!”
Ernesto: “Hi Witchy!”
Witchy: “I can hear you’ve just said hi Witchy!”
Ernesto: “I’m glad you can still hear me… ”
Witchy: “So you’re glad I still retain some of my hearing capacities…”
Ernesto: “What about your sight?”
Witchy: “Your words mean you also care about my sight”
Ernesto: “Now I’m just starting to worry about your mental health!”
Witchy: “You mean you also care about my psychological balance…”
Ernesto: “I don’t care at all since I think you lost it long time ago. The problem is I’ve realized it only now!”
Witchy: “So you think I’m having a mental breakdown… ”
Ernesto: “I think you’re teasing me, pulling my leg, taking the mick out of me…, in whatever language or slang you might express it, the truth is that:
YOU’RE A REAL NUISANCE!!!”
No need to say I was ashamed of my poor debut with Method III Active listening… I was also furious with the not-so-much-genial-genius-in-a-book and I waited impatiently for the end of the day when he would show his silly greenish hectoplasmatic bold head out of page 62!!!
Gordon: “Hi living female being! How have you got along with Method III!”
Witchy: “A hole in the water! I should never have listened to your advice! The boy is mad at me because he thinks I was trying to mock him. I don’t know how to settle the things with him now!”
He stroked his greenish whisker as he always does when things get worse and then spoke:
Gordon: “It’s my fault. I should have warned you: Active listening is a science and an art. People who are trying this skill for the first time often end up just parroting exactly what the other person said, which can feel uncomfortable and artificial to both the listener and the person who’s speaking. Also, if you’re focusing on what the other person is saying and mentally rehearsing an active listening response, then you’ll find you’re not really listening”
A great way to get around this is to start to pinpoint the actual emotion behind the message. This way when you’re listening to a stream of words whose essence is “I’m scared”, you can feel confident that you’ve grasped the core of the message and you can relax and be present with the child. Then you can show your empathy and understanding by saying something like, “Hmmm, sounds like this is scary to you. Good night!”
And the genius-in-a-book started yawning and even emitted a short snore before getting back to his sheets (pages 62-63) from which he has never come back again, at least up to the moment I’m writing.
The end of the story is that I’ve managed to master Method III Active listening, and I don’t mess things up so much as I did when I was a naive apprentice. My relationships with students have improved, they say I’m a good listener but not a too *nosy* one and, at the end of our conversations, they are convinced they have found a sort of solution to their problems by themselves or, at least, a temporary way out. But sometimes I happen to feel a bit sad and melancholic; yesterday night, for instance, I felt like that and so I phoned the Farmer and sang:
Are you lonesome tonight,
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a brighter sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?
Do you know what he answered? Just one word:
May this possibly be considered as an example of Active listening? Oh, life is hard for a sweet loving caring witch helplessly in love with a stone-hearted Farmer… (someday I will tell you about my story with him… now it’s too late and I’m very tired).
Cauldrons of love and kisses
From your favourite witch
P.S.: Don't forget to read the first four parts of this story!!!
And also do the effectiveness test!!!
But if you really want to read something serious about Thomas Gordon click on the link below...
It's ThomasGordon's official Website!!!