Developing Social Competencies
The fi rst of the Common Core State Standards for Speaking and Listening establishes the need to teach students at all grade levels to “prepare and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” Explaining further, the authors of the standards stipulate what everyone knows intuitively about proper functioning in the workplace, and, arguably, in college:
To become college and career ready, students must have ample opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations-as part of a whole class, in small groups, and with a partner-built around important content in various domains. They must be able to contribute appropriately to these conversations … Whatever their intended major or profession, high school graduates will depend heavily on their ability to listen attentively to others so that they are able to build on others’ meritorious ideas while expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (p. 48)
In other words, we are expected to teach students to behave in a courteous manner. Courtesy is the bedrock of effective speaking and listening. In an atmosphere of discourtesy, humans revert to a primitive state of self-preservation: a fi ght-or-fl ight response that marshals human energy away from the direction of intellectual advancement, to say the least. Discourtesy results in the kind of
stress that launches the individual either into aggressiveness or withdrawal unless he or she is socially skillful enough to breach the negativity. Learning thrives in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which engenders a sense of safety. A sense of safety frees the conscious mind to evaluate opposing ideas, accept new information objectively, and formulate coherent thoughts both mentally and verbally.