This past summer, I travelled to Tanzania for a service-learning program. We spent the majority of time there teaching English to students in the local underdeveloped schools. It was difficult to get used to the large amount of time that some students spent composing answers to questions. Originally, sitting in silence with students when they needed time to mentally formulate responses during dialogue was difficult because the air felt empty and awkward. Often, I felt the need to interrupt the silence with pointers. However, throughout my time teaching, I learned that the students’ answers were more thought provoking when I was willing to wait for them. It taught me that tutoring is about evoking the innate intelligence out of the students, and making them feel capable.
This experience taught me that we should listen with the determination to understand, instead of intent to reply. Becoming a focused listener is vital in any professional field. It’s undervalued and is a takes practice. This deep desire that we both had to understand the each other allowed our connection to reach such a high level and made it so I could understand what was needed from my role as a teacher.