Listening to Our Learners

By Mr Andy Gordon, Deputy Principal and Head of Junior School

The stethoscope on the shelf in Mr Gordon's office.

I have a stethoscope that lives on the bookshelf in my office. It is sometimes there for aesthetics or a prop, though my intention to keep it close within my view is to remind me of the following.

The inventor of the stethoscope, René Laennec, was noted as having said, "Listen to your patients. They’re telling you how to heal them."

As educators and school leaders, we are sensitive to the cultural forces, patterns, structures and energies of the people in our learning community. We need to listen to our learners. They’re telling us how to teach them, how to reach them, how to inspire them and how to nurture them.

While using our voice isn’t the only way to communicate our values, beliefs and feelings, it is one of the most recognisable and practical indicators. To be heard and understood is a fundamental need of all people. Let me now reframe the quote: listen to the voices of our learners. They’re telling us, as best they can for their age and life experience, how to teach them.

At a time when the word ‘voice’ is filling the radio waves, it is a timely opportunity to reflect on our own capacity, whether as a teacher, parent, or friend, to listen to the voice that is in front of us, in these moments of truth.

I can’t help but think of the lives saved and the bodies healed, not by the stethoscope - as it has no healing or antibiotic qualities by itself - but because the stethoscope allowed the doctor to listen, listen again…and respond.