julie: on listening

Oh, man, okay.  Now I just have to get my post over here and go through it and publish.

First I have to have coffee.

Now then,  here is my question: Is listening a noun or a verb?  (Or maybe a “helping” noun or verb?)

I’m not asking what the dictionary would say if you look it up, I got that.  I started looking up “listen,”  “to listen,”  “listening,” “did listen,” “was listening,” “should listen,”  and every other listing for listening I could ever find, years and years ago.  I looked it up so many times that the listings for most of the page of “L” words sunk in as well.  What I am asking is, when you talk to people and hope they are listening, what are you hoping for?

The point is, well, an example of the question I am asking is,  if a student is sitting at my desk and starring straight at the teacher,  when that teacher’s done explaining and that student gets up and does something differently than that teacher outlined, why would the conclusion be that the correct question to ask could possibly be, “Julie, were you listening to the instructions?”  Or even, “Julie, did you hear what I just explained to the class?”  I mean seriously, what does if that student was “listening to” or “heard” one or all of those words have to do with what the teacher really wants to know which is why I am not doing what she said the whole class should be doing.  I know it sounds bad, but really, once a teacher asks a student that question,  or something really similar, I pretty much thought they were a bit unintelligent.  (I would like to point out that although as a student I didn’t always do things in the “instructed” order, I always finished everything and got most of everything right.   So the  real questions were more like “why wasn’t I doing what the teacher told me to?”  And I would have been more than willing to answer had it been asked.)

Despite the fact that I had no problem with the work, and actually was way ahead on a lot and definitely on, I can’t remember what it was called, but this whole reading thing that had booklets and cards with stories and different levels were different colors and you read a story and answered questions and then once you were done with all the ones in one color group you moved to the next.  As I said, I was usually a couple colors ahead of most of my classmates which  could be seen as a good thing, but on that day, it was not, at least not by that teacher.  What was important on that day was the fact that I “seemed to be having some trouble,” with, among other things, “listening in class.”  Because on day in particular, I spent too much time reading.

I told my mother that I ABSOLUTELY and positively was listening in class and that every single day I heard every single word my teachers said.  Those were measurements my mother used, “absolutely and positively” and “every single” of anything, but especially words, “every single word”  as a concept, is important.  This seeming to “not listen” was not a new problem by the fifth, I think, grade,  on this day, when my mother had to come, again, to talk to my teachers.    I was in this double kind of classroom.  One side was one grade, and one was another.  I don’t know, come to think of it, it was either fifth or sixth grade, no, fifth I think.  Not sure.  Sixth I would say is probably right, no, fifth.  The teacher on my side was Mrs. Wheeler, but, I don’t know.  I had a horrible person named Mr. Benson for some grade, and I think that might have been sixth? he was NOT what he appeared to be at all and my mother almost got him fired, well, what he did, was doing, almost got him fired, it should have and if that was now it would for sure.  But anyway, it is all kind of mushed together, and it doesn’t much matter, it was one of those grades.  Fifth, I am sure now, it was fifth.  My side that was my grade side that year was fifth.

So we had these two rooms and two teachers and my main teacher let me read ahead as long as I kept getting things right.  But the box with some of the cards was in the other room.  I really don’t remember the whole reason why, I would have to really think it all through, but most of it isn’t important.  The point was that one day I went from one color to another, I think from browns, tans, beige, those kind of things, to red.  I was done with all the cards in the color and so I moved on.  But the “problem” was that I had spent a good while reading and finishing all the cards to move up and hadn’t done much else of what we were supposed to be doing.    Sometimes, how my mother would explain it,  I just got kind of “deeply focused on and consumed by” one thing at a time.    My main teacher had talked to my mother several times and had sort of gotten to the point where she didn’t really get too upset along the way if I didn’t do everything exactly at the right moment as long as I  ended up with everything done.  But the other teacher in the other room was really involved with needing to have every instruction followed “to the letter.”  So that’s why my mother had  to come to see my teachers that time.

When she got there and we all sat down, the teacher asked me if I would please tell my mother why we were there.  I said, “I was reading too much the other day.”  That actually seemed to make that teacher happy because she said something like, “That’s a good example of just what the problem here is.”   She went on to basically say that I knew that was not the reason we were there and that it was because I had not “listened” to the instructions and had not responded in an acceptable way when she asked if I had been listening.

That was when I made the mistake of saying that if a teacher wanted the right answer they should have sense enough to ask the right question.  I remember that teacher’s name and just how she looked,  I could probably look it up and find out what grade it was, but I think what happened was that the teacher that was usually in the room was on leave, or maybe had left for good, and so this one was there and it was her first year in that double class kind of thing and looking back, maybe she wasn’t so good at combining teaching philosophies.  Or at hearing students just blurt things out, even if they were true.  It was a fairly unpleasant situation for my mother, I know that because she kept smoking even though she really wasn’t supposed to in the classroom we were sitting in and one place she usually did try to follow the rules was at my school.  But the teacher was smoking, so I guess my mom figured she could too.

How that all ended is not important.  But what “listening” is/has remained a sort of pet interest of mine forever.  When my son was really little I rarely asked if he was listening to me but if  I thought he wasn’t, that is, if I thought he wasn’t paying attention, I would say, “Hey, are you listening to me, are you paying attention?”   Because from the beginning I told him that when I was telling him things he should pay attention and if he didn’t understand he should ask me what I was talking about and if he thought it wasn’t right, he should tell me why.  Because really, I didn’t want to tell him anything and then realize that if I had said, “Okay, I want you to listen carefully,”  and I hadn’t said, “And  I want you to understand and act on what I am saying and ask if you have any questions or suggest something different if you want to but don’t expect me to change my mind unless you have an extremely valid argument,” I would have done exactly what I thought made that teacher somewhat unintelligent.  From the beginning I wanted us both, me and my son,  to know what was expected from the other when we were “listening” to each other.  Communication is a vital thing in parenting, at least I think so.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was watching two political strategists, one Democrat and one Republican, talk at each other; it was just laughable.  It’s like so much of what is going on in general. I keep hearing about all this “redefining” of words.  I think it’s bizarre.  If  you figure that what so many suggest sets humans apart and makes them more intelligent, theoretically, is their communication skills, their language and the ability to use it all to move forward and think logically, to be motivated by thoughts and feelings other than simply acting to survive, and again, if this puts us in a state of  “superiority” is really a personal opinion and not fact if you ask me,  if everything is redefined instantly as people are talking, if people can make anything make anything mean whatever they choose at any given moment, isn’t that sort of, well, regressing?  I mean, if we are not going to use language to communicate, if we aren’t really trying to understand each other, don’t we end up back at just trying to survive?  And then it occurred to me that that might be just what the political strategists may really want, for people to feel like this election is about actual survival.

And  what better way to do that than to destroy communication?  It makes sense, right?  I mean it seems like a whole lot of people in this country literally are not able to actually comprehend what a lot of others are saying.

Of course, there is that strong possibility that a lot of people have trouble comprehending what the hell I am talking about.  But that’s okay,  I have fun saying it and I realize that in the scheme of things, it isn’t important. And the thing is that it isn’t because I have redefined any of the words, I just maybe haven’t put them together in an order that is recognizable to many, which maybe is a good sign for those who have a little trouble with it.

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