The Art of Connecting: Communication Skills Training for Teachers, School Counselors, and Education Administrators

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Concept by: José Angel Santana


“When is the last time you felt truly listened to at work? To what extent do you or your students feel seen, heard, and valued in your school or organization?” – Author, Shane Safir, “The Listening Leader: Creating the condition for Equitable School Transformation

This course is designed to demonstrate and teach how to create a healthy culture of empowerment that builds the skills and capacity of administrative staff and teachers to create a supportive and collaborative environment to enhance student learning outcomes.

The key to successful leadership as an administrator and teacher is the ability to listen deeply to staff, co-workers, and student needs. But, listening skills for effective face-to-face communication have become seriously at risk in education today. There is growing conversation and research about how prolonged time on social media has an isolating effect on young people and adults. Due to the seemingly perpetual demands and distractions of mobile/cell phone devices, there is a greater need today for deep listening skills and sensitivity to both verbal and non-verbal communication skills development than ever before.

This course introduces students to high-leverage active listening behaviors (listening actions) that lead to a rapid and profound change in the way staff, co-workers, and students feel about being truly listened to, seen, heard, and valued. This course is designed in such a way that the instructor first models each active listening behavior before participants use their own experiences within interactive role-playing/active listening activities that intend to produce desired educational outcomes. Multiple ways to address obstacles are always explored; including tools for both interpersonal awareness (other-awareness) and intrapersonal awareness (self-awareness). By using multiple ways to validate others using specific actions that are always in one’s own control (Epictetus), staff, co-workers, and students, naturally become more open and interested in understanding what you have to offer or ask of them.

This course is designed to improve each participant’s capacity to listen deeply to staff, students, coworkers, and one’s school community, and thereby change the community for the better.

The Art of Connecting’s highly engaging interactive exercises happen in a non-judgmental, supportive environment. Students learn to concentrate on the here-and-now (present moment) between people with sensitivity and authenticity. Participants will learn to recognize and value others, and, in turn to be valued by others.

This course teaches and models how teachers, school counselors, and education administrators can build capacity for others to create their own collaborative spaces that empower others by leading through listening deeply. Participants learn how to enhance others’ self-expression, self-awareness, and self-development. Each day, from start to finish, Dr. Santana will model and teach students how to create and maintain an educational climate where participants are open to enjoying new experiences in a climate that is conducive to collaboration.

The Art of Connecting course pedagogy draws from Dr. Santana’s forty years of professional interdisciplinary practice toward the aim of improving human relations. Dr. Santana is Professor of Directing Actors for Film at Columbia University Graduate Film School, specializing in collaborative professional practice. He is the exclusive Professional Development Consultant of Professional Collaborative Practice for the Union City, New Jersey Board of Education. He has taught his Communication Skills Training course (The Art of Connecting) for executives from the worlds’ leading media companies at the School of Visual Art in New York City, since 2007. His doctoral work in the area of reaching at-risk teenagers, “Honoring Dionysus: Listening Deeply to Young People’s Lives” also informs this course, as does his work as the exclusive Inter-Active Teaching Instructor for the US Army Central Electronic Command (CECOM).

Learning Outcomes

Participants in this course will learn:

  • Listening Leadership: How to use deep listening to validate staff, co-workers, and students’ needs and thereby earning others’ trust and confidence in one’s leadership.
  • Synergy: How to lead circles of reflective listening and discussions that harvest the entire group’s insights. Resulting in a combined effect that is greater than the sum of each individual’s separate contributions.
  • Collaboration: How to create a climate that is conducive to collaboration by listening to and validating each participant’s needs. How to recognize good collaborations and build on them successfully, as well as how to identify behaviors that undermine collaboration and adjust them before they lead to dysfunctional collaborations.
  • Empowerment: How to use an alternative approach to “advice-giving” that gives power to staff, co-workers, and students with tools for intrapersonal understanding the leads others to solve their own problems; and helps them become stronger, and that builds confidence.
  • Conflict-Resolution: How to use multiple activities and approaches to de-escalating and resolving conflicts in a way that prevents harm to relationships.
  • Contribution: How to use listening to solve hidden problems that would otherwise remain unsolved and thus make contributions to the school community. Simply put: How can one know if one doesn’t ask, and then listen? The key is in knowing how to listen.
  • Satisfaction: How to use the power of deep listening to produce greater job satisfaction for oneself and others.

Tentative Schedule

The schedule describes likely activities but may differ significantly based on the requests of the participants, and the trainer delivering the specific session. Course modifications are subject to the trainer’s discretion. If you would like to discuss a specific topic, please indicate it at least 4 weeks in advance.

Day 1 – Course introduction & Core concepts

Course introduction

  • Introduction to the course the school, and the external week activities; 
  • Icebreaker activities; Presentations of the participants’ schools.
  • Introductions: What and How Questions in pairs. – Introducing open-ended questions

Core concepts

  • The Agreements (Core Concept) – Validating and collaborating with others. 
  • Participant Learning Outcomes Questionnaire
  • The Check-In (Core Concept) – Validating others’ thoughts and feelings.  
  • The First Principle (Core Concept) – “That’s Outside My Boat” – Focus on what you can control. We cannot control the other person. 
  • Active Listening (Core Concept) – To Encourage Demonstration and Practice in Paris
  • Closing Reflection Circle

Day 2 – Concept of listening

  • Overview (Core Concept) 
  • The Check-In (Core Concept)
  • The Reality of Doing (Core Concept) Group Activity 
  • Active Listening (Core Concept) – To Reflect, Demonstration, Practice in Pairs 
  • You, and… (Core Concept) Listening and Responding Game
  • Closing Reflection Circle

Day 3 – Understanding awareness

  • Overview (Core Concept)
  • The Check-In (Core Concept) 
  • The Circle of Awareness (Core Concept) – Awareness Game, OFNR (Observation, Feeling, Need, Request) 
  • I-Statement (Core Concept) – Tool for self-reflection, self-awareness, meeting one’s own needs. Framework for understanding other people. 
  • Closing Reflection Circle

Day 4 – Empathizing with others

  • Active Listening (Core Concept) To Restate, To Summarize, To Validate
  • Giving and Receiving Empathy – “I don’t have to solve everyone’s problems.” The wisdom of helping people find their own answers. 
  • Closing Reflection Circle

Day 5 – Implementation

  • The Listening Leader (Core Concept) 
  • Giving and Receiving Epathy
  • Applying the Art of Connecting to Real Life Situations: Role Playing, Forum Theater, Difficult Conversations.  
  • Closing Reflection Circle

Day 6 – Course closure & Cultural activities

Course closure

  • Course evaluation: round up of acquired competences, feedback, and discussion;
  • Awarding of the course Certificate of Attendance;

Cultural activities

Excursion and other external cultural activities.


  • Teachers: primary, secondary, vocational, adult, special needs; 
  • Teacher trainers;
  • Careers officers, educational guides and counselors; 
  • Headteachers, principals, and managers of schools.


  • Activities: All courses include at least one guided city tour and one full-day excursion (usually on Saturday).
  • Certificate: Certificate of Attendance guaranteed for participants who attend at least 80% of the course.
  • Lessons: Classes take place in the Morning (9:00 – 13:45) or in the Afternoon (14:00 – 18:45).
  • Price: 480 €

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Reviews about this course

Amazing course! Highly recommended!

Soleil Tirelli

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