Last year I learned about using Socratic Seminars in the classroom. Apparently they have been around for a few years, since Socrates I am told. I guess I am just not hip or cool or swag enough to stay in fashion.
Anyway, I have used the Socratic Seminar to get my students to say more.. It has been difficult for me to keep my trap shut. But after all, we learn more when we listen, not when we talk.
So, what have I learned?
1. The quiet kids always seem to have the most profound insight on the topic.
2. Some students do not listen and merely repeat what another has said.
3. Students who like the sound of their own voices volunteer a lot.
4. Given the right topics and questions, teenagers can talk to each other for a long time.
5. When we ask banal questions, we get bland answers.
6. Classmates can tell as easily as I can when someone has not read the material.
7. We have less extraneous topics introduced.
How do I apply this knowledge to other parts of my life? I listen more to my own children, unless they are whining about some inconsequential thing like having to use good manners at the dinner table, doing dishes, putting clothes and toys in the proper place, or having to stop punching, kicking, pushing, screaming, yelling or annoying a sibling. I would say that I have improved my listening to what my wife says, but I have always been a great listener with her. I am so good that I can say, “Yes, dear” before she even finishes the request.
At my wife’s Ice Cream shop and Candy Store, she will go in to make waffle cones or caramel apples to listen to what the employees have to say. They give her ideas for increasing sales, becoming more efficient, and addressing potential problems. It seems my wife learned from Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and a topic for one of her college essays, because he said: ” The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys.”