Weekly Teaching Tip – Jan. 9, 2012

There have been a few things happen this week which have once again reminded me of the importance and also of the uncertainty of communication. What you are saying might be totally clear in your mind, but what the other person thinks you are saying might be something completely different. Communication is one of the biggest struggles and yet one of the most important aspects of being a teacher.

I consider myself a good communicator and I put a lot of time and effort into trying to explain things in a clear and concise way. Yet, I am still reminded that what I think I am saying is not always what the student is actually hearing. I had a student that I had been working with for about 9 months say to me once, “Now, before we get started today, I have a question about something you said last week. You mentioned that you were working with me on my second bridge. I know when I was singing in the band the guys used to talk about going to the bridge of the song, but I don’t think I ever knew anything about the 2nd bridge.” Wow! I thought I was being totally clear and he was in a totally different place.

We had another example of communication this week with the John Henny webinar. John spoke of some things that were very new to some teachers, some teachers had some previous understanding, and some teachers were already expert in these areas. In doing a webinar, John had to use a “one size fits all” approach. As a result, some teachers found it exciting and enlightening, others found it interesting, some found it a bit confusing and others had very little idea what he was talking about. Even some that had a good understanding of the topic found some of what he said confusing because he used different terminology or phrases than they were familiar with. In John’s own mind everything was perfectly clear I’m sure, but the message reached different levels of effectiveness depending on the listener and their background.

This is a great lesson to each of us as teachers. We cannot use a “one size fits all” approach to every student we work with. One of the skills of a great teacher is the ability to understand how each student understands and be able to assess where a student is at and find the best way to be able to communicate with them. Be knowledgeable, but then be sensitive and try and be as effective as possible in sharing ideas and information. Then make sure you check with the student to make sure he or she is understanding.

We cannot expect 100% understanding, but we should try and be as effective with each student as possible. We also should never assume that everything we say is being 100% understood. As long as we are being sensitive and aware to communication issues however we will be heading in the right direction.

And as a side note, as was mentioned in a previous weekly teaching tip, most people learn better by experiencing something rather than hearing about it. So, although some explanation is necessary, typically the more time a student can spend feeling instead of hearing about it, the more effective the learning usually will be.


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