This post was contributed by Michael Rockers, Ed.D., Diocese of Honolulu.
As a 30-year-old principal of a Catholic school in Arkansas, I was overwhelmed to say the least. I did not have a degree in educational leadership. I had only taught for eight years and looked like I was 18. Once, when the pastor introduced me to a parishioner as “Mike Rockers,” the parishioner said, “O, Rockers . . . your dad must be the new principal.” I got through those early years by the grace of God, a great school secretary, the good will of many teachers, students and parents and one crucial skill – the ability to listen.
Now, having been a principal or superintendent for the past 31 years, I have come to truly appreciate how fortunate I was to take some counseling classes early on and learn about the power of listening. I have come to recognize that it is a critical component to the success of a Catholic school administrator at any level. There is tremendous power in listening, in suspending our own frame of reference, delaying judgement and just fully attending to a person. The essence of listening is as brutally simple as it is effective. You can show your students, parents or principals that you are connected to them, to their thoughts and emotions, by your willingness to take the time and energy to be present to them. This demonstrates compassion, consideration and humility.
Being truly present by fully listening to a person in this high-tech and hurried world we live in may be the greatest gift you can give to anyone. It may be true that the greatest gift you have, the gift of yourself, is best given through listening.
I believe it will certainly help anyone become a more effective administrator, disarm frustrated parents and experience a greater connection with others – allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you.