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The Listening Leader: Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation

Shane Safir, Michael Fullan (Foreword by)
ISBN: 978-1-119-18634-2
368 pages
April 2017, Jossey-Bass
The Listening Leader: Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation (111918634X) cover image

Description

LISTENING . . . THE KEY TO BECOMING A TRANSFORMATIVE SCHOOL LEADER

The Listening Leader is a practical guide that will inspire school, district, and teacher leaders to make substantive change and increase equitable student outcomes. Rooted in the values of equity, relationships, and listening, this luminous book helps reimagine what is possible in education today. Drawing from more than twenty years of experience in public schools, Shane Safir incorporates hands-on strategies and powerful stories to show us how to leverage one of the most vital tools of leadership: listening. As a Listening Leader you'll feel more confident in these core competencies:

  • Cultivating relationships with stakeholders
  • Addressing equity challenges in your organization
  • Gathering student, staff, and parent perspectives as rich data on improvement
  • Fostering a thriving culture of collaboration and innovation

The Listening Leader offers a much-needed leadership model to transform every facet of school life, and most importantly, to shape our schools into equitable places of learning. As Michael Fullan writes in the Foreword, "Read it, act on it, and reap the benefits for all."

"This book is a 'must have' for any leader trying to move the needle on equity. Drawing from her lived experience as a principal and leadership coach, Safir offers stories that give insight and practical strategies that get results. It's one you'll keep coming back to."
—Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

The Listening Leader immediately changed the way I interact with students, teachers, families and community members."
—Tamara Friedman, assistant principal, Berkeley High School

"Shane Safir has written a brilliant book. As engaging as it is informative and as revelatory as it is relevant. It is a must-read for school leaders and those who aspire to lead." 
—Chris Emdin, associate professor of science education, Teachers College, Columbia University; author of For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood and the Rest of Ya'll too

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Table of Contents

LIST OF FIGURES, TABLES, AND EXHIBITS XIII

FOREWORD XVII

PREFACE XXI

Introduction XXV

Equitable School Transformation Is Possible • Leader ]ful Schools, Not Leader ]thin • Primary Audiences for This Book • The Listening Leader Map • How to Read This Book • Anonymity and Pseudonyms

Chapter 1: The Transformative Power of Listening 1

Learning to Listen • What We’ve Inherited • A Few Core Beliefs • Key Challenge 1: The Persistence of Inequity • Key Challenge 2: Integrity in the Face of Pressure • Key Challenge 3: Dealing With Trauma • Key Challenge 4: Disconnected Data • Becoming a Listening Leader • A Word on Mindfulness • The Arts Academy Revisited

PART ONE: AWARENESS

What do I need to know and understand to become a Listening Leader?

Chapter 2: The Core Tenets of Listening Leadership 31

The Leader Who Wanted to Write People Up • Listening Is Brain-Savvy • The Neighborhoods of the Brain • Tenet 1: Our Brains Are Wired for Survival First • Tenet 2: Our Brains React to Survival Threats Through Fight, Flight, or “Tend-and-Befriend” • Tenet 3: Social Threats Signal Survival Threats to Our Brains • Tenet 4: Every Brain Grows in the Right Conditions • Tenet 5: Organizations Have Core Memories

Chapter 3: Listening for Equity 55

The Fragility of Trust Across Difference • Tuning in to Structural Racism • Tuning in to Unconscious Bias • Tuning in to Cultural Difference • Lessons Learned: Joy and Wendy

Chapter 4: Getting Ready to Listen 79

Listening Below the Green Line • No Shortcut to Trust • Bids and Betrayals • Understand Your Living System • Mindful Listening • The Problem of Rumination • A Seamless Transition

PART TWO: RELATIONAL CAPITAL

How do I build the interpersonal currency needed to support and develop adult learners?

Chapter 5: Practicing Deep Listening 105

The Fallout of Failing to Listen • Relational Capital • Two Types of Listening: Deep and Strategic • Principles of Deep Listening • Deep Listening Stance 1: Attention to Nonverbal Cues • Deep Listening Stance 2: Mature Empathy • Deep Listening Stance 3: Affirmation

Chapter 6: Practicing Strategic Listening 127

The Impact of the Right Question • Building Capacity Through Listening • Principles of Strategic Listening • Strategic Listening Stance 1: An Orientation to Vision • Strategic Listening Stance 2: Reflective Inquiry • Strategic Listening Stance 3: A Bias Toward Action • Integrating the Six Stances • Seeds of Transformation

Chapter 7: Listening to Parents 146

When Things Fall Apart • Navigating Difference With Parents • Flipping the Script Between Parents and Educators • Five Ways to Listen to Parents • Jackie’s Reflections

Chapter 8: Listening to Students 166

Listening to Students Tell the Real Story—Even When It’s Hard to Hear • Discarding Well ]Worn Scripts • Five Ways to Listen to Students • Listening and Democracy

PART THREE: COMPLEX CHANGE

How do I diagnose and navigate the challenges I face as a leader?

Chapter 9: Influencing Complex Change 189

The Listening Leader’s Landscape • Leadership in a Living System • Diagnose Your Problems and Challenges • Six Steps to Influence Complex Change • Shaping the Path

Chapter 10: Leveraging Listening Routines 214

A Staff Meeting with 100% Engagement • Grown ]Ups Need Routines Too • First, Take Your Team’s Temperature • Next, Design Humanizing Routines • Revisiting the Engaged Staff Meeting

Chapter 11: Growing a Listening Culture 238

A High School Network in Transition • From Hero to Host • The Four Seasons of a Listening Culture • “Set the Table” with Annual Retreats • Listening Campaigns • Learning Leader Chats • Team One ]on ]Ones • Safe ]to ]Learn Inquiry • Transforming a Culture

Chapter 12: Listening for Liberation 259

Conversation by Conversation • Building a Movement • The Courage to Listen

APPENDIX A: LISTENING LEADERSHIP RUBRIC 263

APPENDIX B: THE SIX STANCES OF A LISTENING LEADER 271

APPENDIX C: THE INSTRUCTIONAL CONVERSATION PLANNING TOOL 274

APPENDIX D: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR LISTENING TO PARENTS 275

APPENDIX E: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR LISTENING TO STUDENTS 278

APPENDIX F: TELLING THE CURRENT-STATE STORY TOOL 282

APPENDIX G: TOOLS AND FACILITATION STEPS FOR LISTENING ROUTINES 283

APPENDIX H: TOOLS FOR GROWING A LISTENING CULTURE 296

GLOSSARY 304

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 312

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 315

INDEX 317

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Author Information

SHANE SAFIR is a coach, writer, and facilitator. She was the founding co-principal of June Jordan School for Equity, an innovative national model identified by scholar Linda Darling-Hammond as having "beaten the odds in supporting the success of low-income students of color." Visit her at shanesafir.com.

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