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The potential when we listen

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As the New Year approached I (Rachel) felt prompted to reflect on ‘Who do I listen to?’

As a school, we – the adults and children – aim to listen to different voices. 

Daily we, the adults, listen to the voices of the children, through what they share verbally in group meetings, and what the children express through a variety of medium, i.e. art, loose parts, music, drama etc.  We document the student’s voices by writing down what they say, and / or through images. 

We listen to the team of adults that are passionate about quality, diverse and affordable education; Soul Action’s Board, the staff team, parents-carers of the children and our friends.

We are aware of our surroundings and engage with what we notice. 

And then there is an inner listening, where we are on a journey of becoming more attuned to our feelings and processes.  As we listen, God is at work, speaking through the multitude of contexts.  We trust in a God who is active; communicating through people and creation.


Listening to the different voices enables us as a school to be child-led and inquiry-based.  Through listening, we are able to respond to the emotions, ideas and wonderings of the children.  At the same time we try to carefully balance being child-led with fulfilling the requirements of the curriculum.

This last week I had the privilege of witnessing a beautiful picture of balancing the curriculum with being child / learner-led. 

I was explaining to the Foundation Phase (6-9 year olds) about the importance of respecting one another when we are participating in group meetings, and the need to not shout out.  From this comment, a discussion emerged.  CS (aged 8) reminded the rest of the group that we put our hands down when someone is speaking so we listen to what they are saying.  AM (aged 7) recalled how we should turn to face the person who is speaking, so we are focused on what they are saying.  IM (aged 8) went on to ask, ‘But what about if we want to add on to what someone has shared?’  Some of the children started to share their ideas of how they could show they want to build on, without shouting out or interrupting.  So to try and include all the children in this discussion, I set the challenge to think about this further over the weekend, and that we would come back to this the following week.

The way in which the children took the discussion meant we were covering two areas of the curriculum:

  • Speaking and listening within English where the children should be encouraged to ‘Maintain attention and participate actively in collaborative conversations, staying on topic and initiating and responding to comments’ and
  • Life skills, where the children  within the theme of ‘Manners and Responsibilities’ should understand why it is important to ‘Wait my turn’ and ‘Listen to others’

This was possible through valuing and listening to the different voices.   There are so many possibilities when we listen. 

Listening is the art of paying close attention – to ourselves, to others, to the world around us. When we listen closely, we’re more open to others and more welcoming. We’re also more likely to reflect on our own beliefs and behaviours, and see them in relationship to others

Browne (2018). Reimagine Education. The Africa Reggio Emilia Alliance, p.15.

Today, as I (Phil) was in the process of posting this blog, I looked up to find KM (aged 9) standing at my desk. He handed me his English book containing a piece of guided writing that he had just written as one of the ways of expressing / documenting what had been discussed in one of the group meetings that Rachel mentions above. This is what I read: 

As a school community we can learn from one another by listening to them. We can also learn from one another by putting our hands down and to not shout out so we can listen to the person who is talking.

KM (aged 9) – posted with permission
KM, at my desk.

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