One of the hardest jobs we have as educators is getting the students to listen to what we say. When lecturing, performing a demonstration, leading a group discussion, listening on the part of the student is critical, yet for some students is hard to do. It’s not that students don’t want to listen to us, the problem is there are barriers that prevent them from listening effectively.
We all know what a barrier is, right? It is something that won’t let us through, it keeps us from going where we want to go. In the classroom, it is something that prevents the student from getting the message that we are delivering. One of the most common classroom barriers we must deal with is physical barriers.
Have you ever been to a conference and been in one of the rooms that is so cold you had trouble paying attention? That is a physical barrier.
Any disturbing factor in the physical environment that prevents full communication is a physical barrier and could include room temperature, distracting activities, and movement, personal discomfort, physical impediments, distracting side conversations, or noise.
For us, as educators, it means that we must monitor this. You might be burning up in the front of the room, but if you see the students are freezing, you must deal with being uncomfortable and make sure they are comfortable. If they are not comfortable, it doesn’t matter what your message is, they are going to have a tough time paying attention.
Distracting activities outside of your classroom can also make it difficult for a student to listen to you. Is your school located in a strip mall with windows to the outside? People coming and going can be very distracting. Arranging the classroom to where they can’t see outside or perhaps get blinds for the windows.
For those of you who deal with harsh winters, what happens on the first beautiful day of spring? Distracting, isn’t it? Hard to pay attention? To help engage the student, consider doing an activity outside (if your state allows).
Side conversations become a barrier to communication. If a small group of students is talking while you are, it is going to prevent students near them from listening. As the educator, you must manage this. I realize that when you have a learner-centered environment, you are going to have a certain amount of side conversations. What is important as an educator is learning to manage these effectively.
Whatever the physical barrier is, as an educator you must monitor and be aware of all that is going on. It is up to you to help eliminate the barriers as much as possible so that your students can listen and learn!