What is my “receiver”?

This advice may look a little cryptic on the surface, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. By “receiver”, we are referring to you being in “listening mode” during your time as an ECFT and favouring this mode throughout those crucial and challenging first years. Many young teachers are confident and positive people who want to go charging into a new job, all guns blazing. They want to unleash a reforming zeal on what they see as a stuffy institution. It’s admirable in many ways, but it’s not a good way to survive and thrive in your ECT years.

The benefits of holding back and activating “listening mode.”

Far from being passive or accepting of an inferior status quo, there are many benefits for ECTs by following this general rule of being receptive before launching too many new ideas into their new work community.

Benefit 1: Increase your own knowledge

When you are receptive and listening, the biggest and best result you get is an increase in your own knowledge. As a teacher, you should already be aware of this fact, but when you are listening and receiving information, you are learning. Just as your students will learn from you, you should actively learn from your mentor and more experienced colleagues. As the old adage states, “Knowledge is power.” As an ECT, you have very little starting power, so being receptive to new knowledge is the best way for you to “charge up.”

Benefit 2: Avoid saying things you later regret

When all you want to do is outpour your own thoughts and ideas instead of taking more time in listening mode, you run the risk of saying regrettable things. Your ECT years are the final part of your formal education and training experience. It’s the last opportunity you’ll have to listen up and take notes. After your ECT years, you are expected to function as a fully-fledged member of the department and the wider school community. It doesn’t do you well to have spent that year saying things that make others question your judgement.

Benefit 3: Time to make your ideas better

In the sixth piece of advice in this series, we advised ECTs to spend time researching, considering and planning their new activities before they propose them as potential new methodologies for colleagues to follow. Being in listening mode is a good way to pick up information and insight that will help you to improve those ideas. It’s a common experience, feeling a sense of relief that you didn’t share a thought or idea when you suddenly realise how flawed or problematic it was. Use listening mode as a time to hone and perfect your own ideas before you start to make new proposals in the near future.

Benefit 4: Improved working relationships

While speaking up to ask questions is good (we even said so in our first piece of advice in the series), speaking out too much without first listening to your mentor and fellow teachers won’t do you much good. An ECT who won’t listen and receive guidance and information is something of a red flag to a school looking for someone who will be receptive to feedback and eager to learn from their more experienced peers. Favour listening mode, and you’ll find it much easier to gel with colleagues and build successful and lasting working relationships.

Benefit 5: People will listen to your words more carefully (because you speak less)

When you listen more and speak less, your words carry more gravity. When a motormouth goes on and on, it becomes impossible to discern the genuinely useful and intelligent parts from the garbled mess. When you’ve shown you can listen, receive, consider and reflect, then you are someone to take more seriously when they speak.

In conclusion:

When you understand the benefits, it’s easy to see why favouring listening mode is better for you in the long run than any alternative. Don’t look at listening more as you failing to get your ideas across or to speak. Use listening as an opportunity to improve the quality of your own contributions and thus as a kind of fuel to drive forward your own reputation and standing within your school and your department. At the end of the day, we have two ears and only one mouth, so we should probably listen at least twice as much as we speak (this is what we say to our students too!)