Few of us want to admit it but all teachers have had problems at one time or another listening to their students. There are many reasons for this but in this post we will look at the following barriers to listening that teachers may face.
- Inability to focus
- Difference in speaking and listening speed
Inability to Focus
Sometimes a teacher or even a student may not be able to focus on the discussion or conversation. This could be due to a lack of motivation or desire to pay attention. Listening can be taxing mental work. Therefore, the teacher must be engaged and have some desire to try to understand what is happening.
Differences in the Speed of Speaking and Listening
We speak much slower than we think. Some have put the estimate that we speak at 1/4 the speed at which we can think. What this means is that if you can think 100 words per minute you can speak at only 25 words per minute. With thinking being 4 times faster than speaking this leaves a lot of mental energy lying around unused which can lead to daydreaming.
This difference can lead to impatience and to anticipation of what the person is going to say. Neither of these are beneficial because they discourage listening.
There are times, rightfully so, that a teacher does not want to listen. This can be when a student is not cooperating or giving an unjustified excuse for their actions. The main point here is that a teacher needs to be aware of their unwillingness to listen. Is it justified or is it unjustified? This is the question to ask.
Detours happen when we respond to a specific point or comment by the student which changes the subject. This barrier is tricking because what is happening is that you are actually paying attention but allow the conversation to wander from the original purpose. Wandering conversation is natural and often happens when we are enjoying the talk.
Preventing this requires mental discipline to stay on topic and to not what you are listening for. This is not easy but is necessary at times.
Noise can be external or internal. External noise is factors beyond our control. For example, if there is a lot of noise in the classroom it may be hard to hear a student speak. A soft-spoken student in a loud place is frustrating to try and listen to even when there is a willingness to do so.
Internal noise has to do with what is happening inside your own mind If you are tired, sick, or feeling rush due to a lack of time, these can all affect your ability to listening to others.
Sometimes we listen until we want to jump in and try to defend a point are disagree with something. This is not so much as listening as it is hunting and waiting to pounce and the slightest misstep of logic from the person we are supposed to listen to.
It is critical to show restraint and focus on allowing the other side to be heard rather than interrupted by you.
We often view teachers as communicators. However, half the job of a communicator is to listen. At times, due to the position and the need to be the talker a teacher may neglect the need to be a listener. The barriers explained here should help teachers to be aware of why they may neglect to do this.