Man in red shirt in front of chalkboard with hand cupped to his ear in a listening position

Happy holidays, friends! I am writing this blog post from my recliner basking in the glow of the holiday candles and watching the Michael Bublé holiday special. I hope you are doing something equally as relaxing.

This blog was scheduled to be about listening, an important evaluation tool. When beginning to outline the blog, I started listing the traits of a great listener. I didn’t even have to Google it; I just knew the skills. I’ll bet you can name most of them, also. In fact, I truly can’t imagine that any principal has made it through their formal education without being taught the skills needed to be a good listener or the positive impact listening can have on your leadership. With that said, instead of reiterating the traits of a good listener, I thought it might serve us all well if we were to reflect upon and evaluate our individual use of these skills.

Read through the following listening behaviors and determine if your listening practices are landing you more on Santa’s Nice List or Santa’s Naughty List.

‘Nice List’ Listening Behaviors

  1. I nod in response to the teacher’s comments or acknowledge their thinking with a comment.
  2. I show interest in what the teacher has to say even if it is not about the agenda I had for this conversation.
  3. This teacher has been difficult to work with in the past, but I try hard to separate that from what their concerns are today.
  4. I believe eye contact is a sign of respect and try hard to maintain it during the interaction.
  5. Understanding what emotion is motivating the teacher is as important as the content of their thoughts.
  6. I am aware that I am predisposed to certain values and beliefs, and I work to eliminate them while listening to the teacher.
  7. I always have a notepad to record important points made by the teacher. It shows I value what they have to say and helps when formulating post-observation comments.
  8. I don’t jump to problem-solving and action until after hearing the teacher’s entire message.
  9. I make sure that I am understanding the teacher correctly by restating or paraphrasing their thoughts.
  10. I don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking questions. I use them to clarify and understand what the teacher is thinking.
  11. I take a few cleansing moments before each post-observation conference to clear my head and focus on this teacher.
  12. I can respond to teacher questions with honesty and compassion.

‘Naughty List’ Listening Behaviors

  1. I hear a commotion outside the office and stop the conference to check on it.
  2. I tap my fingers on the desk and swivel my chair back and forth during the meeting with the teacher.
  3. I nod and smile a lot pretending to be interested in what the teacher has to say until we get to the part of the conversation I think is important.
  4. I try hard to hurry the teacher through the feedback process; I have a lot on my plate.
  5. I planned the early-out schedule in my head while the teacher rambled on and on about their lesson. I could have asked questions to focus the conference, but I didn’t really prep for this one.
  6. Sometimes I know what the teacher is trying to say, so I finish their sentence.
  7. Teachers’ comments often evoke inspiring responses from me that I share immediately.
  8. I listen well enough to get the main points as I am planning the next question to ask.
  9. The teacher blamed their poor math scores on my poor professional development plan. I assured them it was a well-thought-out plan that caused many teachers’ scores to increase. There may have been an ever-so-slight bit of sarcasm in my response.
  10. I love post-observation conferences. It allows me to talk with the teacher and get some things checked off my “to do” list. I got the lunchroom schedule taken care of just like that!

Listening is a gift that can help teachers grow. Unwrap it now!

Cheri Patterson is a trainer and field support representative for the Network for Educator Effectiveness. She joined NEE in 2013 after an extensive career in K-12 education as a teacher, principal, and associate superintendent.


The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.