#OneWord2020

This is my 7th year of choosing a #OneWord to guide me through the year ahead. The theory behind this idea is that our guiding word points us towards the type of person that we want to become. And unlike a resolution, a single word can’t be broken. I think of it more as a gentle nudge in the direction towards a more improved version of myself. In this article by Nicole Dean she suggests that you decide what one thing, if applied to every area of your life, will have the most impact and bring the most positive changes into your life. Then you work to apply that word to every area situation and task in which you find yourself. Personally I have had much success with the #OneWord concept and can share my #OneWord2020…….”Listen”.

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I’ve had my eye (ear?) on ‘listen’ for the past few months as I teach interpersonal communication skills to my health classes. Although I think my lessons are strong, they definitely favor the delivery component of communication and neglect the receiving part. So I want to boost my understanding of listening and what it means to be an effective listener, and I want to take it beyond the superficial “yes'” and “aha’s” and “what I hear is…” that can reduce ‘active listening’ to a checklist.

In addition to improving the communication sills of my students, I also intend to become a better listener myself, listening to my family, my peers and my co-workers. My #OneWord2019 was ‘calm’, and having this word gently nudge me throughout the year definitely made me less self-centered, reminding me to slow down and focus my attention to where it was most needed. I can definitely see how ‘listen’ is a natural partner to ‘calm’.

In order to kick start my year I sought out some resources to help prepare me  These questions, taken a this New York Times article were a good place to start.

  • What are the daily challenges to sustaining good listening in your life–noise, distraction, something else?
  • Can you remember a time when you were really listened to by someone else?
  • When do you find it most difficult to pay attention?
  • Do you feel like your listening skills are getting better or worse? Why?
  • What aspects of your life might be different if you had better listening skills?

My daily challenges to sustaining good listening include being permanently busy, rushing from one project to another, with lesson preparation, grading, supervision, creating resources, blogging and preparing for conferences leading to me feeling like I never have time to just stop. And listen. I’m constantly distracted by social media and I need to be intentional about my screen time.

The last time I really listened proved to be very powerful. I was recently on a two day diversity seminar that was designed to help participants understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalizing academic achievement disparities. A major part of the two days was listening to personal stories from participants, with those from non-white educators being most painful, powerful and transformative. Sure I’d read about racism enough, but this was the first time in many years that I’d actually taken the time to listen to those who were impacted by racism on a daily basis.

When do I find it most difficult to pay attention? Embarrassingly, it’s when I’m with my family – the people to whom I should listen the most! We are a noisy family, social, and keen to share our experiences with each other. Too often there are multiple voices talking at once and I need to be more intentional about finding the time to make sure that each family member is heard.

My listening skills aren’t necessarily getting worse, but I am more aware of the value in being a good listener. One of the resources that I will use this year is The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction, by Rebecca Shafir. This book comes highly recommended by a speech pathologist at my school. This quote from the author resonates with me

“Listening intently even for a minute is one of the nicest gifts we can give to another human being.” – Rebecca Z. Shafir

If the aim of having a #OneWord is for it to gently nudge you towards becoming an improved version of yourself, then surely being a better listener will lead to positive results in all areas of my life.

I’ve blogged many times about my #OneWord experiences and will take the same approach as in previous years. My reading and podcast listening will include the topic of listening. I’ll share my word with my friends, family and of course my students, in addition to encouraging them to select their own word. Additionally, I’ll pin some listening quotes above my desk, and also add some to my iWatch face.

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Here are a few questions for you to consider this week:

Q1: What steps have you already taken towards embracing your #oneword2020? #slowchathealth

Q2: Which areas of your life will be affected by your #oneword2020? #slowchathealth

Q3: With whom will you share your #oneword2020? #slowchathealth

Q4: How will you know if your #oneword2020 was a success? #slowchathealth

Bonus ‘Listen’ playlist, from my alter ego – DJ Milneshine

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