Really Listening

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from tutor and board member, Allison Matthews. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Allison!

When I was working with my learner today, we did a quick exercise to call attention to the letter S at the ends of words. Ms. G. tends to drop off endings like –s, -ed, and –ing when she speaks, and so naturally, she does the same thing when she reads. It’s not always a huge deal, but I’ve told her that sometimes, an ending can make a big difference in the way you understand a word. She performed the exercise beautifully and stretched out all the S’s she found.

“Yeah, I know I never say my endings,” she told me afterward. “When I was a kid, I used to talk and read real fast so no one could understand what I was saying.”

“You didn’t want people to notice you making mistakes?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s it!”

“So, did anyone ever stop you and slow you down, or did you just slide by?”

“They just let me slide right by!”

This exchange with Ms. G. amazed me. First, I was impressed that even as a child, she was developing effective strategies for hiding her reading troubles from her teachers. She may have been labeled with a variety of disorders over the years, but Ms. G. is one smart cookie!

But I was saddened, too, that—as far as I know—no one took the time to slow this little girl down and really listen. To tell her that it was okay to make mistakes. To help her with the words she wasn’t sure about. To teach her that her thoughts are important enough to be heard.

These days, Ms. G. is learning to take her time and communicate her ideas with others through her work at Turning Pages. Let’s look around for other children, teens, and adults who are sliding by and take the time to really listen.

Photo credit: Paul Sableman