14 August 2009 12:41 PM

Listening in Class

by Dr. Rick

Want to be part of a rare and valuable group?  Want to learn faster, develop insight, have good leadership skills, be a good friend and family member, and eventually recognize that that we humans and our activities are really more connected than you ever realized?


Learn to listen.


It’s that simple.  How many people do you know who are really good listeners, who actually listen to you without turning the conversation to themselves?  Who actively make eye contact as you talk, concentrate on your words and feelings, and make you feel for a few minutes as if you’re the only person in the world worth listening to?  If you have a few people like that in your life, nurture them.  They’re rare.


You can develop these skills.  Start with learning how to be a good listener in class.  The listening skills you learn as a young student will serve you well later.  As you recognize the difference between passively hearing and actively listening, not only will your grades improve but your confidence will rise.


Here are some tips for actively listening in class.  They all involve taking control of your life.  Each one is a choice worth making.

  1. Determine to be a good listener.  Make up your mind that you’re going to improve your grades, enhance your skills, develop new interests, and discover hidden talents.  You’re going to do these things by learning to be a better listener in class and beyond.
  2. Come to class prepared.  Do your homework.  Review the lessons from the days before because they’re going to relate to what you’re going to learn today.  When you need help, get it.
  3. Be positive.  Choose to learn new skills and facts.  (Yes, the decision is yours.) You’re the one who’s most responsible for your learning, so keep a positive attitude.  Don’t let anyone get you off track.  Some will try.  Stay away from these people.
  4. Be attentive.  Focus on learning.  Keep eye contact with the speaker, usually the teacher, or other smart students who are participating and contributing to the learning.  Pay attention to what they say, how they say it, and the responses of others to their words and ideas.  Emulate their strengths and put your own personal spin on them.
  5. Take good notes.  Learn what kind of notes is best for you.  Outlines?  Lists?  Diagrams?  Drawings?  Leave plenty of margin space so you can go back later and add to the notes or jot down questions for the next class.  Listen for key points.  Learn to write quickly, perhaps with your own abbreviations and notations.  Then, go back to the notes as soon as possible after class to clarify anything you may have trouble remembering later.  Nothing worse than looking at some scribble and thinking, “Now, what did I mean by that?”
  6. Take control.  Stay away from distractions.  That means disrespectful, talkative students – even if they’re your friends.  (Although, why would you want to be friends with people who are determined to hold you back?)  Don’t give in to distractions.  Decide to give 100% of your attention to the speaker.  Again, it’s your choice.
  7. Make the right friends.  Determine to hang out with people you admire, who stretch your mind a little.  Then, actively listen to them during conversations about school and your futures.  Compare class notes with them, study with them, question them.  You know who these people are.
  8. Keep up.  When the material gets tough, choose to stay with the program.  Concentrate even harder rather than taking the easy way out and stopping listening.  Recognize that staying with something difficult and mastering it eventually will only add to your skills and confidence.  Strength builds more strength.  If you have a setback, learn from your mistake.  Everyone has setbacks, but only the wisest learn from them.  Decide to be a part of that wise group.
  9. Ask questions.  If you’re struggling, ask clarifying, meaningful questions.  Teachers can’t know if you’re having trouble if you don’t tell them.  We teachers want you to succeed.  We want you to enjoy our subjects as much as we do.  We want you develop your talents.  If we’re cranky sometimes, it’s only because we’re working hard.  Show an interest, and watch how encouraging we can be!
  10. Be respectful.  The Golden Rule may be old, but it still works.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Don’t interrupt, criticize, mock, or be cynical.  (Cynicism is really, really overdone today, and it’s not nearly as sophisticated or comic as some people make it out to be.)  This is true in class and beyond.  Listen, really listen, to what others are saying.

Be patient with yourself.  You’re a work in progress, just as we all are.  Courteous, considerate listening skills will help you all your life if you pay attention – actively and purposefully – to the people around you.  Start now in the classroom and be amazed at how far these skills will take you!


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