Communicating Mindfully With Students

There is a distinct difference between listening and hearing.  Everyone knows that.  How many times have we nodded at someone talking to us without processing a single word?  As a librarian in a lively middle school, I encounter students all day long with various requests that range from book recommendations, to tech conundrums.  Multitasking is often, sadly, necessary.  Through the hustle and bustle to get things done I have come to realize that I am not always mindful in my communication with students.  I need to work on this.  

So what is mindful communication?  To communicate mindfully, one needs to be completely focused on the other person; not distracted or half-listening.  Responses should be thoughtful, honest, and considerate.  One should try to sense the emotions of the other, and in turn, project kindness and caring.  I have always believed in the transfer of energy between individuals, and mindful communication ensures the best possible flow.

So regarding book recommendations, instead of simply pointing kids in the direction of the hottest best seller, I dig a little deeper and try to get a sense of what the students would really like to read.  I ask questions about likes, dislikes, and books previously read.  I have to be careful not to judge appearances either.  It is easy to assume that a sporty kid would like to read an athlete biography when what he is hungering for is a great mystery.  My students have their own chromebooks and often pop in for tech help.  I am careful to convey that no question is silly, and rather than merely fix the problem myself, I try whenever possible to guide the student through the steps to fixing it themselves so that they learn.  If I am checking out materials, I look students in the eye, I smile, and I ask them a question about their day.

Now these may seem like things that all educators should inherently practice.  The thing is though, we get busy and preoccupied and it is sometimes an effort to communicate mindfully.  But it is an effort well worth it.  When we interact mindfully with students we convey the message that they matter and that we care.  It is impossible to know all that happens to these students outside of school and it is crucial that we are mindful that we may be the most kindness they experience during their day.

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