Saturday, March 10, 2012

Listening Goes Both Ways

When I first started out in humane education I always worried about what kind of a lesson or activity I could prepare for the groups of kids I interacted with. My assumption was that what I presented to the kids was the most important part of my visit since they'd be learning something about the treatment of animals.

I've since come to realize that the lesson is only one part of what the kids get out of my visits. Most of my visits include an animal guest. I usually do the activity with the kids first since once the animal is out they really don't have any interest in interacting with me -- and who can blame them!

Once the animal comes out I stop talking as much and the kids take that opportunity to talk to me. I hear about animals they have at home, and animals they've met at the homes of relatives. Some kids have stories about wild animals they've encountered -- some they've rescued by bringing to HAWS. Occasionally I'll hear stories about animal abuse the kids have witnessed -- either by other kids, or worse, from adults in their lives.

I've come to realize that listening on my end is just as important as wanting the kids to listen to me. Kids are desperate to be heard and be made to feel that their thoughts and comments are important. Expressing their experiences and feelings are an important part of the learning process, and making them feel as though their conversation about animals is being heard will have a huge impact on how they regard animals in the future.

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