Teaching with Empathetic Listening and LARA
During her undergraduate career, Caroline was both a participant and a facilitator with IDP! Caroline graduated from Cornell in 2016 with a B.S in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Agricultural Education and a minor in Horticulture. Caroline currently lives in Poughquag New York, where she is a teacher. Below, Caroline delves into how IDP has informed her experiences teaching in New York.
Before I became a teacher, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to both participate in and facilitate with the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP). As a teacher, all of the skills and teachings from IDP have become critical pieces in my pedagogical practice as well as my reflection process. Specifically, I have utilized empathetic listening as well as aspects from LARA (Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add Information) to validate the lived experiences of my students, while also opening up dialogue in my classroom.
Listening to students is one of the most important aspects of being a teacher, especially at the middle and high school ages where students begin to understand their multifaceted identities. In my role as a teacher, I firmly believe in giving students a space to freely speak and be heard. This means allowing students to finish their thoughts without interrupting. As the authority figure in the room, it is vital for students to know that I will allow them to express every part of their story. This is where listening turns to affirmation as well as beginning to open up space for a dialogue.
For many students, especially those in any sort of target group identity, listening becomes the first point of affirmation. I have had several students express to me that they do not feel they are heard even after being given space to speak. That is why I always thank my students for sharing any information they choose to tell me. Any sort of positive initial response post student sharing has been vital to having students become more willing to speak and express themselves in my classroom. This type of repeated affirmation has allowed me to build open and trusting relationships with students.
In both responding and inquiring/adding information post affirmation, I find it most beneficial to ask a follow up question with students. By inquiring further about what a student has said sends a message to the student that their information is important enough to be further investigated and is valued. In repeating this type of questioning with students, I have found a significant increase in student participation in class as well as classroom collaboration between students.
Utilizing empathetic listening as well as aspects of LARA (Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add Information) as well as numerous other Intergroup Dialogue skills has had an incredible impact for both my pedagogical practices and my students. It has allowed for my students and I to build trust and create an environment where dialogue is welcome. Not only has this benefited my personal relationships with students, but also strengthened classroom academic participation. I hope to continue building Intergroup Dialogue practices into my classroom routine.