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A Remote Control For Your Teacher? - The Importance Of Asking Questions


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Are you always sure about what your teacher really wants from you? Have you ever been in the situation that you present your work but it appeared you got the assignment wrong? There are a lot of situations in which you've been told to do something, but it might not be totally clear to you what the outcome has to be.

There can be various reasons for this unclarity. Maybe you've not been paying attention while the assignment was given. Maybe it was explained in a bad way, maybe the teacher assumed you had the knowledge to understand what he or she was talking about but you didn't. When thinking about assignments and formulating them an educator will get fully into a subject. We might assume that, because he is teaching this subject he will know a lot about it. And the more you know about something the more difficult it is to understand why other people really don't know what you're talking about. That's why it actually is very difficult to teach a seemingly very simple subject to a group of newcomers. Great teachers know this, of course, and know how to formulate their questions. But this is not always the case.

When you are watching a movie in a foreign language with subtitles, how often do you have to stop the DVD player and rewind a little to read what they were actually saying (especially the Spanish ones, wow they can be fast)? To me this happens quite a lot. Not just because I can't read that fast, I also want to follow what's going on on the screen. Luckily the rewind button exists, because when we miss a bit of conversation in a movie we might miss an important piece of information about the story.

A student during an average day at school will have to absorb a lot of information. A lot of different people will talk to him and he will have to take a lot of well written notes not to forget. So how fast can you write and listen at the same time? How many times did you wish you had a remote control for your teacher to shut him down for a while to think about what he said, write down what he said, maybe rewind a minute to listen again to really get what he said?

Such a remote control doesn't exist, but you have some control over the information that's been given to you. When your thoughts are just somewhere else for a while and suddenly you wake up and find out you just missed the most important part, what will you do?

Most people sit back and wait to see if the information will be repeated, if they can recreate it themselves from the context, but that will not make give you a clear picture.

The solution is easy. By simply asking to explain it a bit more, you will get things clear. A few things to take in consideration:

  • Don't worry about people thinking you don't get it, a lot of them are probably happy you are asking it because they are afraid to ask themselves
  • Opposite to what you might think, a student asking questions (to a certain amount) often makes a better impression to a teacher then a student who is always quiet. As a teacher it's not that hard to tell if someone really gets what you are saying upon being asked
  • Don't ask somebody to literally repeat a sentence. This is annoying and exposes the fact you have not been paying attention. Even if this is the case, don't show it like that
  • Questions you ask might trigger a teachers ideas, resulting in clearer descriptions, interesting anecdotes and an overall better atmosphere
  • When you are confused about certain assignments, ask what exactly the deliverables should be and what the exact deadline is for each of them
  • Raise your hand and wait for your turn to ask your question. Don't be rude by suddenly interrupting people
  • The only bad questions are the ones you don't ask (seriously)!


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