Learning to listen with compassion

Sarah Zale combined “compassionate listening” with participatory theater to teach English 101 at Portland Community College in Oregon, building on the college’s program on “Theater of the Oppressed.”

Now she’s added social science, community service, multiculturalism and global awareness to create the Listening Tree Project at Shoreline Community College near Seattle.

In November, the Listening Tree Club staged a five-minute skit on “the prejudices and power differentials” experienced by Asian and international students of color.  Then the audience replaced the characters and tried to resolve the conflicts.

This quarter, Zale is co-teaching an interdisciplinary course with drama instructor Deb Jacoby called “Leading the Way: Social Justice Through Activism and Compassion.”

Next year, the Listening Tree will be a sequence of three classes that satisfy humanities or social sciences requirements and lead to a  Leadership Trainer Certificate.“More and more, employers are looking for something that says ‘Yes, I have these skills, I can be a leader in community building and conflict resolution and demonstrate active listening to multicultural perspectives’.”


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David J. Smith

Sarah’s program was funded through the Public Education for Peacebuilding Support program initiated by the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Institute of International Education. The spring cycle for applications is now open and ends May 3. Go to: http://www.iie.org/Programs/USIP-Support/How-to-Apply#How-to-Apply

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