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I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my teaching. I’m always searching for new techniques to motivate and inspire. I enjoy learning new methods that I can share.

Notice all of the sentences start with the pronoun “I?”
Maybe I need to revise my thinking and explore more about the way my students are receiving my instruction.

Recently, I had an interesting experience that made me stop and reflect. I’m a never-ending beginner quilter. It is a hobby I love and helps me unwind and slow down the pace of my life. I’m not very good at it, but I make up for it with enthusiasm. Long ago, I decided that I would enjoy the process, not the product, as well as not give anything as gifts.

As part of my hobby, I take classes to learn new skills. Recently, while sitting in a class, I became confused. I didn’t understand what I was asked to do. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the technique. It seemed backwards and overwhelming. A quick look around the room showed me that everyone else was grasping it. The class was moving on to the next step and I was completely lost. Suddenly, the room felt overly warm and I had the urge to scream, “Slow down. Wait a minute. I’m lost.” Instead, I struggled on and lost my momentum for learning.


Driving home from the class, I reflected on the experience. I was a bit annoyed with myself for not speaking up, but during the class I felt defeated, anxious and confused by the way everyone else was learning the technique. I was timid about admitting I was lost. I didn’t want the class to slow down on my account. I didn’t want my classmates to see that I was totally confused.

I didn’t raise my hand and ask for help.

I began to wonder how often this happens in my own classroom with my students. I like to think I’m in tune with my students and ask the correct questions to insure they understand. Is it possible that in the business of the day, I have students who are afraid to speak up for fear of embarrassment? Am I being as aware as I think I am? I know I use a variety of cues and lists and strategies when I teach, but am I so busy teaching I forget to really listen?

When I go to school on Monday, I’m going to remember what it was like to sit in a classroom and feel afraid to speak up. I’m going to give my students a reminder that I always want them to say, “I don’t understand. I didn’t get that. I don’t know what you mean. I need help.” I want them to feel safe enough to reach out to me.
I want to see things from their point of view and remember that they are what is most important -not a new technique, method or project.

My goal is to listen more!
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25 thoughts on “Am I so busy teaching I forget to listen?

  1. Nancy this is a great reminder to us all to slow down and to make sure we check in with each student to make sure they are grasping new concepts.

    I just wrote a post about a 'teachable moment' that was almost missed because I was too busy to slow down.

    Thanks – I'll make sure I remember this come Monday!

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  2. Thanks for the reminder. When one person is confused, he/she is probably not the only one. I, too, remember feeling scared and nervous to ask questions.

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  3. I've made this same mistake and one parent told me that their child can't remember anything of what happened in school. So I made it a point that 5-10 minutes before my class ends students write a short reflection of the lesson using paper strips. With this strategy students gained confidence to write anything that they like because no one sees it except myself. I usually have discussion with those kids who had difficulty grasping the concept over lunch break. It takes a lot of time but it's our duty to help students to learn.

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  4. This post caught my attention first as a mom. My 17 year old daughter recently replied to her grandpa “Can you say that again grandpa? I forgot to listen.” We all had a great laugh! But all to often happens to me as a mom and a teacher! Thanks for the reminder to be present in the moment!

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  5. Very insightful post Nancy. Putting ourselves in the place of learners is a great reminder of how difficult learning can be.

    I asked my class one day to put up their hands if they've ever felt confused or not sure of what to do in my class. Almost every single hand went up. It was eye-opening and somewhat surprising for me, because I view myself as an effective communicator. I realized that I was assuming that learning was occurring rather than asking students if they were on track. Two things I've begun to use are Exit Cards and Learning Logs. Exit cards are quick ways to check if key concepts have been learned. In Learning Logs students reflect on strengths and areas of difficulty. Once they've identified a problem, they must devise a strategy for resolving it. This has been very useful in helping students recognize exactly why they are struggling.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Thanks, IB Clever! I love when teachers share what works in their classrooms. Not only is it our duty, it seems to be our passion too. Thanks for stopping by – it is appreciated. Nancy

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  7. Dear debf,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It is what I hope my blog would do – provide a place for people to share and learn. It means so much. I am still working on begin present in the moment.

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  8. Dear Heidi,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. I love when teachers share their experiences on my blog. It is the goal and how I envisioned it. Thanks for your great ideas. Nancy

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  9. Heidi ~
    I love the idea of exit slips. I often use “entry tickets” as a pre-assessment to see where my kids are before we begin a new concept or even a lesson. This form of pre-assessment helps me target students, adjust my language and the lesson to meet the needs of the kids.
    Knowing where my kids are before we begin is another way to 'live in the minute” (or at least be there with the kids).

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  10. That's a great goal! I'm always encouraging my special needs students to advocate for themselves. I want them to speak up if the teacher doesn't have the mic turned on, or if they don't have a clear view of her mouth. It's tough in the upper grades – they don't want to stand out or be noticed for being “different”. Great post!

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  11. You make a great point! I once watched a documentary on Pike Place Fish and heard a great story about listening. In the video one of the workers stated he use to get angry when customers asked the same questions over and over. But then he stated he realized one day that even though the question is old to him, to that customer the question is brand new.

    Hopefully that made sense 🙂

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  12. It's amazing how we get so caught up in our own lives sometimes. This is a great reminder to us all that in order to improve ourselves we need to be honest and look inwardly sometimes for the solution to a problem. Even the finest of educations can't offer the value of real life experiences to put into our “tool boxes of knowledge” in which we help teach others. Thank you for the insight and great advice.

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  13. I am a student at University of South Alabama for a Degree in Elementary Education. I sometime am embarrassed to ask my professors questions when I get lost or don't understand something. It's something everybody does because of the fear of looking stupid.

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  14. I can really relate to your experience of learning about teaching through being a student yourself. I have had some wonderful lightbulb moments about teaching literacy while learning Australian sign language (Auslan). Learning to read fingerspelling has shown me the importance of context for meaning and being able to recognise word families and word chunks. I think hobbies often accidentally occasion professional as well as personal development for teachers. Thanks for your post.

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  15. I am an EDM310 student from the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your post. From a students point of view, I can relate to your post. In the classroom, we as students are sometimes afraid to come forth about confusion or problems within the lesson being taught. I am realizing that this is a fear that I must conquer in order to become more educated an not get to far behind. As a future educator, I realize that it will be my duty to make sure my students are actually getting a clear understanding of what i teach, so they will not have to be the kid in class, lost and afraid to ask questions.

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