How does it feel like to be heard and understood?

In a recent School Beyond Limitations staff meeting at the start of the academic year, the following question was posed to the team: “What does it feel like to be heard?” Responses came in thick and fast with many facilitators using the words “to be seen”, “to not be judged” or “to be understood”. At SBL, our culture compels us as staff to meet students exactly where they arerather than where a society claims they should be. Whether that be in relation to their academic, emotional or social learning. In order to do this, our staff consistently work to listen to understand our students rather than simply respond.

How do our facilitators do this? With such caring professionals involved, it is easy for us to want to fix situations immediately and give advice freely. Sometimes this is certainly necessary. However, often, our role is to listen actively and respond openly in order to empower our students to advocate for themselves. Here are a few examples of the strategies used by our facilitators to foster such open conversations:

Non Verbal Communication

It is important that our facilitators are open in their posture, retain eye contact and ensure that their body language conveys warmth and empathy. Without saying anything, the facilitator reassures with their low-key positive sounds, gentle nods and compassionate smiles.


As Rumi states: “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” Giving space for students to fill in the silence often prompts further sharing.

Reflecting Back and Clarifying

It is important for facilitators to show what they have heard by reflecting it back to the student. This invites the student to correct anything the facilitator may have misunderstood and helps them to feel seen.


At the end of the conversation, it is helpful once more to clarify the plan and decide together on any action steps that are being taken. Once again, this opens up the space for both parties to take a shared responsibility for the conversation.

Open Questioning

In many cases, our facilitators may need to ask closed questions in order to find out facts and set up plans for the week. However, when they want to elicit a more in depth response, our facilitators aim to use open questions which require much more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. For example, rather than “do you like writing in English?”, facilitators may open up the question by asking “how do you feel about writing in English?”. As Dr Kathryn Mannix writes in her book “Listen”, “The question that checks understanding is not ‘Do you understand?’ but rather ‘What have you understood?’”

It is our firm belief at SBL that if students feel heard, they will be able to share more about their lives, how they learn and what makes them tick. With this shared knowledge, facilitators are more easily able to support the students’ wellbeing and, in turn, help them to reach their personalised goals. Our listening arms our students with their own agency to bring their own unique essence to life.

If you feel that you would like your child to be exposed to such a caring environment in which the student feels heard, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. Here, you can access more information about School Beyond Limitations and ask us any question you may have.

Are you interested in SBL’s learning approach? If you would like to access more information about School Beyond Limitations or ask any questions, please reach out to us.

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