Brenda Ueland

Tell me more – On the fine art of listening By Brenda Ueland

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Reflection on an article

(1007 words)

For this essay, I would like to reflect on the attitudes of listeners in regard to the classroom environment. Brenda Ueland’s article does not actually refer to teaching but completing the SIT TESOL course has made me think more about the person (teacher) you are. The article opens up some contemplation while getting the reader to reflect on the attitude the listener should have towards people. This is notable in my case because of the students who are trying to speak in class. Thus, the crux of the article and my essay is:  Are you a good listener?

To begin with, I have to agree with the writer on the fact that when people listen, ‘ideas actually begin to grow within us’. My immediate reaction was to think of a student in the class with something to say and the teacher letting them speak, but encouraging those students to expand on their answers. The listener to the students helps them develop their ideas using their English language to a deeper degree. This is in stark contrast to Brenda’s opening line with proposes that ‘how we don’t listen to our children or those we love’.  I think this is a bit far from the mark as I think people listen, the fact is sometimes not attentively. Not actually listening is just plain rude and to do it to the ones we love or your students would be very strange. Referring to a classroom setting, I think there could be a moment where the teacher does not listen to the students as attentive as they should. This doesn’t mean the teacher is being rude; they might have their mind on completing the lesson or the fact that the student has answered the question, so the teacher can move on. I think here is where the listener should take a step back to think about their attitude.  I think that when a teacher has these moments in the class where the students have a chance to speak that the teacher can and should expand at those junctures because they have to be courteous listeners who provoke the students to speak more and grow stronger in their language. 

It could be said that there are some lecturers (teachers) out there that love the sound of their voice and do stifle people and students’ attitudes that stop them talking and feeling like talking. Brenda’s article alludes to this, when she says’ these brilliant performers, by not giving us a chance to talk, do not let us express our thoughts and expand’. I think that as a teacher, one could get confused that they are doing a great job teaching, but why are the students not talking? As such the teacher never realizes that it could be them that they are the problem. I think that this ‘creative fountain’ in us all as Brenda puts it, has got to be given time and some teachers may not give time to let this creativity start working. Students can be given too much work that they are not sure where to start. I think with clear and modeled instruction with specific objectives the students know what to do and then they have focus thus they know what to speak about. This leads to what the main focus is about the listening issue to which the teacher can listen as Brenda Ueland says in ‘quiet fascinated attention’.

The formulation of ideas has to be a task that most students find difficult to do, especially with their limited knowledge of vocabulary as well as those that do have a wider knowledge. For them, remembering all this vocabulary is still a problem. For myself, I have had times when I know the word in Thai, but I just forget it only to find out later that, of course, I knew it. This goes along with sentences as well. I make this point because Brenda Ueland’s article mentions a person’s talking being a ‘little dry and meager and full-on grinding talk just now but presently begin to think’ thus ‘he will show his true self. It makes me think because I had a situation in my class where a woman was translating everything that I said. It was I thought stopping the students in the class from actually understanding me. Anyway one-break time a student wanted to tell me she was leaving at break-time for some reason. As the student who wanted to leave was trying to tell me her problem this woman came over, translated, and tried to tell me the student’s problem. As diplomatic as I could I explained to her that this was not her problem and I wanted this student to tell me herself. Being a forceful woman as she was she didn’t really listen so as she was hearing the student having problems she again tried to help. Again, I said I wanted to hear the student. Well, the student took about five minutes to tell me her problem and after trying real hard and me being an active listener she got her point over. I think by me listening and understanding that she wasn’t proficient in English and that I would have to take my time to let this student build up the confidence to tell me made for a more relaxed situation. Thus she was able to speak English and her vocabulary was enough for me to understand. I felt good because some students are not listened to because at that first moment they don’t have the vocabulary or are a little nervous.

To conclude this essay I would like to say some of the points Brenda said in her piece are important and I realize those points.  It just makes me think about what relationship the teacher has with people be it friends or teacher-student relationships. I am not sure If Brenda had real problems with conversations that brought on her feelings to write this but it does make me think teachers should be more attentive which is a good thing.