In many ways, humility is the only thing you need to observe well. Once Ego is out of the picture, you have that space now and you will very naturally use that space and energy to listen more attentively to your students’ needs. Observation is the only skillset available to us at birth. So, from day 1 of our existence, our brain gathers data on body language and spoken language alike to form a system of communication that grows more complex over the years.
In teaching then, 90% of the battle is removing the inhibitors: things like fear, distraction, Ego, that impede your brain’s earliest and most natural function: observation. Once the inhibitors are gone, your observation skills will be very intuitive. Trust your instincts and listen closely to your students. That being said, here a few tips to help foster a pro-active learning environment.
- Introduce ‘Student-Driven Learning’
In Part 1 I defined Slow Listening as channeling all of your attention to the communication (verbal or non-verbal) from one person or group, and focusing your energy to understand the emotional or educational needs of that person, without glancing at the monkey mind.
We talked about the monkey mind as the voice that distracts you from focused listening. The goal in the classroom should be to silence the monkey mind in order to listen to your students. Silencing the monkey mind is no easy feat. For a good resource on how to do this, check out THIS video with Tim Ferriss (or the transcript HERE).
Having understood that emotional comfort and desire for engagement are two prerequisites for academic improvement, it is important to develop two skills in order to improve your slow listening ability: humility (or the reduction of Ego) and observation.
Teaching EFL is an art, not a science. Though it comes with certain challenges unique to its field – such as communicating across linguistic and cultural divides – the core of EFL teaching is similar to many jobs in that it relies on the interaction of ideas, careful attention to detail, sensitive emotional management, and many other aspects of one essential activity: communication.
There is no doubt that teaching a second language effectively relies heavily on researched, tested and proven methodology. And it is crucial to learn EFL methodology well before venturing into the field. (Getting a CELTA is one of the best such places – I did mine in N.Y.C.) However, methodology can only get you so far. And if you fail to get beyond the textbook and the pedagogy, you will ultimately fail in your most basic desired outcome of helping language learners get to the next level.
So, what are the necessary elements of good teaching that go beyond the manual? Well truthfully, there are many. And much can be gleaned from experience. But, in my opinion, you can narrow the focus of your teacher learning to one very simple principle: Be a SLOW LISTENER.
Slow Listening is channeling all of your attention to the communication (verbal or non-verbal) from one person or group, and focusing your energy to understand the emotional or educational (see below) needs of that person, without glancing at the monkey mind (see below).