Reverence and Listening in Teaching and Leading

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 11, (2010), p. 5-6.
The reconsideration of reverence was proposed by Paul Woodruff in his book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue. In examining reverence, the authors draw on moral philosophy, particularly the revival of virtue ethics, and acknowledge Woodruff's cross-cultural studies of reverence, particularly in ancient Greece and Confucian China.
The authors propose the revival of reverence and reverential listening in teaching and leading in schools.

Purpose of Study

The authors take Woodruff's philosophical and historical analysis of reverence and extend it to education, particularly for teachers and school leaders. The authors delineate the traits of reverential listening for teachers and describe the importance of ritual, ceremony, and shared deliberation for school leaders.
The authors’ purpose is to show what reverential listening is and how it can be part of best practices in schools.

Research Design
The research design is a philosophical study of reverence and listening in the context of education. The authors analyze each term and describe its traits as they form a description of reverential listening in education. This analysis is supported by examples taken from their own experiences as teachers and from well-known theorists of reverence, teaching practices, and school leadership.


The authors conclude that small acts of reverent kindness, like the acts of reverent listening accomplished by teachers and leaders in schools, can be transformative.
As Albert Schweitzer noted, many of us do this modest though important work well every day. Reverent listening is part of a simple act of paying regard and attention to others that is too often ignored in today's schools.

Woodruff, Paul. Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue. Oxford University Press (2001)

Updated: Nov. 23, 2010