How to Teach so that Others Will Listen.

Three aspects of teaching that are commonly misinterpreted.

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It is a difficult challenge to teach a class of students who would much rather be outside in the yard playing. Moreover, it is difficult to teach someone who just won’t listen.

This is something that teachers struggle with daily. Students come to class and lack the attentiveness to remain focused and retain any of the information you give them.

Thanks to the digital and technical world we live in today, students have access to the world at their fingertips, which is excellent; however, they just can’t listen.

As a teacher myself for four years, I know all too well the difficulties teachers face when trying to get their students to listen. Especially if the students are from different countries.

My first job was at an English Language College in Queensland. I had been given a one week contract to teach a class of Primary School students from China.
“These kids are in for the time of their life”, I remember telling myself.
However, after walking in and witnessing a fistfight between two 9-year-olds, my expectation of the day dropped dramatically.

Teachers face a range of issues, from budget cuts to world pandemics, the role of a teacher has always been and will continue to be a challenging career. However, the biggest challenge is getting their students to listen.

Here are three fundamental values that should be considered the next time you need to teach others.

Patience isn’t necessarily the key.

Many colleagues who I have spoken to over the years say that patience is an essential value in building a strong class connection with your students.

I, on the other hand, disagree. Being patient is only going to prolong the resolution by letting students carry on with their distractions. Letting a class turn into turmoil is only going to cause more uncertainty and less focus, rather than trying to reel them in with a fantastic fact or story.

  • If you are simply going to wait for your students to settle down, you are wasting valuable teaching time.
  • If you are going to merely listen to the other person drag on for an hour, you won’t have any time to get your point across.

Being patient only prolongs the lesson that you are trying to teach. People don’t listen. It is a natural instinct and one that I see in each of my students. When they are not listening or aren’t focused, I haven’t made clear choices in my approach to the lesson material. I haven’t made the objective clear in what I am trying to say.

If I can relate the lesson to them early on and ascertain a connection between the lesson objective and the student, the rest should flow naturally and the students should listen.

Listen to what your students are REALLY saying.

“Why aren’t you listening to me?”

I remember asking myself once early in my career. It took me a while to realise that I was the one who wasn’t listening.

We spend so much time trying to talk about ourselves and how we feel instead of listening to others, where we may actually hear the answer to our own question.

When a student of mine is dragging on about how they don’t like Grammar, and it’s pointless, I simply ask them; why do you think that?

If they can give me an answer that is logical and clear, and one that I listen to, fair enough, teaching grammar is not going to work for the student, so why waste our time? Perhaps teaching it in another way may help, but why not use the valuable time more appropriately by looking at other fields of interest. After a while, the student’s focus becomes more attune, and your approach to teaching grammar may be received differently.

Listen to your students and take as much away from them as you can. Sometimes what they have to say, may surprise you.

Humour is an escape, NOT the answer.

“Laughter is the best medicine. It is not, however, the answer to having others listen to you.”

When I first became a teacher, I thought that the best way to get my students to listen would be to tell jokes.

After my first class, I quickly realised that I was being paid to educate, not entertain. If the topic of the lesson was laughter, and I told a couple of jokes that would eventually make my students laugh, then I would, of course, be doing my job.

More often than not, teachers and those who wish to teach, believe that humour is a great way to get someone’s attention. Reel them in with a funny one-liner, and they’ll be engaged for the rest.

This is simply not true. You should use humour, but only when it’s appropriate and don’t fall on it as a means to get people’s attention.

If you are not getting your lesson objective across to the person you are trying to teach, what good is telling a joke going to do? Create a happier environment? I’m not so sure about that…

When preparing your material, you first need to think about what your objective is and how you are going to convey that. If you feel that using humour is the right approach, try writing a different approach.

Humour is a means to an end. It is merely an escape for the audience where the difficulty remains in trying to reel them back to focus. Humour should not deter you from your main lesson objective; instead, it should assist you in getting the point across.

To summarise.

Being a teacher is rewarding, although it is not without its challenges. While many teachers and workers in the education industry struggle to keep their heads above water through this world crisis, students still need to be heard and educated for the road ahead. These ideas should help you maintain and produce a better outcome for your class or lesson.

  • Patience prolongs the lesson, relate it back to them.
  • Be a better listener.
  • Use humour appropriately.

Remember that being a teacher is not going to make you rich. It is, however, going to reward you in a whole new way. Here’s an example;

A colleague of mine came into the staff room crying one day. She handed me a letter, and it read;

Dear Susan,

Thank you for every minute of your class. You took the time to express and really break down the lesson so that we would understand. I wanted to send you this letter to tell you that Chloe has just had her little girl and we have decided to name her Susan.

Thanks again,


Teacher • Writer • Actor

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