Author: Farida Alaouat
Department of English language institute
I remember when I was a first year Student University; we had a chance to be taught by a native speaker, whose knowledge of English was sky high. Yet, he was not able to get the attention of his students and the kind of communication that was governed was always dysfunctional. I used to put the blame on my classmates for lacking interest and not having any intentional values for learning; however, I later realized that having cognitive abilities are not enough to lead the field. That is to say, this ability should be intertwined with another kind of ability that will keep the flow of both teaching and learning on the right track. Once in a grammar class, Tarek, a new classmate we all believed that he was being a douche bag, said sarcastically to the teacher and his tone was disdain-laden ‘ hey teacher ; I donno what the hell Grammar is for”. We all were expecting that this picky comment would escalate to a fight as it was the case with the first afore-mentioned teacher. My grammar teacher turned to the class with an upbeat smile and responded, in a calm tone “why do u think so son? Can you please explain we will be all ears” he motioned to us and said softly “right guys?” . The smile was like flu that positively contaminated the whole class; it was contagious and the fight –breeding-climate suddenly soothed down. Tarek, then, arranged himself saying in a more friendly way” thank you sir “and explained all his view. From this day forward, we started calling the teacher’ the magical smile”. Our professor smartly turned a cantankerous social entity into a more serene one without involving any of his cognitive skills related to language instruction (grammar competence)
Very important to know
The classroom is a public setting, where teacher and pupils interactively connect to meet an educational objective. Therefore, a comprehensive communication doesn’t hinge merely on being cognitively intelligent, yet acting in a smart way socially to reach the intentional goal that I personally call a “mature educational gain”. This is later achieved when both the needed knowledge (learning) as well as the positive interaction (socializing) are intensified at the same time.
A socially smart teacher
A socially smart teacher does not have any innate magical power, but he can exercise a tremendous effect on his students, which, in turn, positively affects the whole classroom, thanks to the social skills he develops. Those social skills maintain positive pupil-teacher dynamism, a balanced rationality- emotionality paradigm, and a comprehensive social and educational productivism.
A socially skilled teacher is the one who is involved in a genuine understanding :We may all pretend that we understand our pupils, and we may all believe that simple head-nodding or a bunch of words like “yes, I can see that,” “really,” and “I understand” will make you involved in ‘ genuine understanding’. With all fairness, this latter is much more sophisticated and deep. It implies a conscious attempt to get to know the hidden messages emerged from the speech or behaviour of your pupils. In other words, it involves a deep examination of their feelings, their thoughts and their beliefs; it is all about seeing the world the way your student sees it (and that is what makes it genuine, not biased). The point here is not to lower down the level of your philosophy to meet his; It is not to rationalize his dysfunctional performances; It is not to develop an always-yes- personality, but it is to deeply“orient our neural circuits for connectivity, putting us on the same wavelength”( Goleman, 2006:88). In fact, understanding genuinely requires from you-as an instructor to listen profoundly to the inside-voice of your students. More precisely, to open an unlimited space for their worlds and your world to dance in unison to let you sense their hidden signals and clues, which in turn will make you understand them. “Freedom Writers” a true-based story movie was a great example; twenty-three-year-old Teacher Erin Gruwell who could get a group of juvenile delinquents engaged in her class thanks to her constantly trying listen and understand them.
To reach profound listening, it is crucial to free oneself from any emotional or mental noise (noise refers to any act, thought or feeling that may distract, say, self-centeredness or vanity). To back up this view, an article in Harvard Review pinpoints “to make it work [profound listening], “You have to set aside what you are doing, put down the memo you were reading……. and focus on the person you are with” (cited in Ibid: 88).
Our neuron mirrors indulge us to grasp the emotions of others; the invisible wire that connects our brains to each other’s makes our feelings and mood contagious (for more details, refer to Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence); a teacher’s sullen-face may provoke a high level of tension in pupils, while synchrony may get bloomed up by a simple pat on the back, as Ekman put it, “smiles at smiling” and I personally add “distress at distressing». Thus, a socially skilled teacher should use emotional and physical tactics to create in pupils a sense of care and security. Therefore, they will be more open to share positively any issue with their teachers. After trying to deeply listen and genuinely understand, the professor is more inclined to balance emotions and rationality (comprehensive connectivity). Succinctly stated, after grasping the deep meaning, he will reasonably and emotionally examine, study, and relate to reach a mature outcome- a mature decision making.
If you manage to deeply listen, genuinely understand, smartly use emotions, you will be armed with a social vitamin that will dovetail to any unhealthy situation like turning the angst into joy or boredom into interest. Therefore, it is not a rocket science or academic theories that we need, but social smartness. I quote Graham’ words, an English professor who spend his life teaching English at Arabian countries “Some teachers are in the wrong profession and lack the necessary vocation and understanding to become a good teacher. Trying to turn this into academic theories is like trying to theorize on why we breathe. I enjoy watching a good teacher weave his magic as much as I hate academia with all its puerile theories to explain what common sense is. A teacher with a genuine interest in his students and an interest in his subject will generally be more empathetic.”