Listening with Their Eyes

“These kids just don’t listen!”

You may not have said it out loud, but you know you’ve thought it. Sometimes it seems like the words we say just bounce right off. You might as well be talking to a wall.

It’s true. There are times when kids don’t hear a word we say, but that doesn’t mean they’re not listening. Maybe they’re listening with their eyes.

In a recent Sunday sermon, this quote was shared:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

excerpt from ‘Sermons We See’ by Edgar Guest

When you stand in front of your students what are you telling them? On those rare times they they do listen with their ears, does the message they hear conflict with the one they receive with their eyes?

Like it or not, when they’re looking at us they’re learning more than just the curriculum. The lessons they learn with their eyes are lessons in character. These lessons are taught continuously and unconsciously – both in and outside the classroom.

Our actions can be a powerful teaching tool when we SHOW our students what to do rather than just telling them. Think about it. When we use our words to say, “This is important.” Do our deeds back it up?

Look at the way we teach information literacy and digital citizenship. When we tell kids to go find information on the Internet, do we also model good search techniques in class? Do we demonstrate how to evaluate information for accuracy or bias? We tell them to be sure to respect copyright and to cite ALL their resources for papers & projects, but do we take the time to do the same for our presentations & lectures?

We emphasize good digital citizenship and encourage students to protect themselves online. We warn them that what they post can come back to hurt them later if they are not careful, but do we also exercise those same practices ourselves? Would you want your students to see your Facebook or MySpace page? How would you feel if they started following you on Twitter?

“I’m no role model”Charles Barkley

Maybe Charles Barkley isn’t, but we are. We chose to be when we made the choice to become teachers – I think Teach42 would back me up on this. The students in our room are watching to see if the words they hear from us are more than just hype.

Now I’ve made a personal choice not to “friend” my students on Facebook and as far as I know none follow me on Twitter, but if by chance one of them happens to see my profile or read my tweets, there’s nothing there that should cause me to feel shame or regret. I believe we need to be role models to our students in the way we act in public and online. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect – kids see through that facade right away. It just means we have to be real and make sure that our words and our actions are not sending mixed messages.

And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way

another excerpt from ‘Sermons We See’ by Edgar Guest
Read the entire poem here.

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