This morning, I discovered in the dictionary that the word “listen” means “to make an effort to hear something.” I must admit that I’ve never given much thought to the “effort” part of listening. I’ve heard trillions of sounds in my lifetime, but I don’t think I’ve very often made an effort to hear. My ears are always open and sounds enter, but, according to the dictionary, that’s not actually listening. Authentic listening is work – very demanding work – and, like any arduous and exacting labor, it requires dedication and concentration. If I truly want to listen to someone, I need to put on my imaginary work clothes and hard hat and get down to the difficult business.
This is somewhat disheartening for me, because it brings to mind how seldom I have done the hard work of listening in my classroom. As a teacher, I’m afraid I’ve been a fairly indolent listener. I’ve shirked my job. I’ve hardly broken a sweat as far as genuine listening goes. If I was part of a “listening crew”, I’m afraid I would have been fired long ago.
I better get to work.