263 Echoes

Most teachers I’ve observed repeat things they really don’t need to repeat. Most teachers I’ve observed repeat things they really don’t need to repeat. Once in a while, I’ve challenged myself to stop doing it, but it’s awfully hard to stop. I can think of three possible reasons for this phenomenon, and I leave it to the teachers who read this to try breaking the habit.
First let’s consider some reasons to try to break the habit. Some children legitimately need to have things repeated; the communication didn’t work the first time. There was an auditory processing problem, and repetition is the solution. More often, though, repetition, rather than solving the problem, perpetuates or even aggravates it. It can perpetuate the problem by letting the child know it’s not necessary to listen the first time. This line of thinking has to be used carefully; children who rely on repetition may or may not need to rely on it.
If children need time to process what they hear, repetition can work against that processing. The echo of a direction interferes with the auditory processing that’s already going on. The child, instead of hearing, “As soon as you have finished, take out a book and read,” may hear, “As soon as you as soon have finished you take out have a book finished and read, take out a book and read.” The child may be understandably baffled by that direction, but the teacher knows what he/she has said, and so do many children. And it can be hard for a child to seem to be the only one who doesn’t get it.
Sometimes teachers don’t even realize that they’re repeating themselves. Maybe their own processing styles involve repetition. Maybe they unconsciously think they’re increasing the possibility that children will hear what they’re saying; if something is said twice, they think, there’s twice the chance that it will be heard. Teachers sometimes seem to think they’re rephrasing directions for clarity when, in fact, they’re repeating them verbatim.
Repetition can be done angrily; the teacher has already given instructions or information, and is annoyed that a child or children haven’t gotten the message. Some children are better at hearing the anger than at hearing the content of the repeated message, and all they end up learning is that they’ve somehow gotten the teacher angry. The teacher may actually be angry at herself/himself for not communicating effectively, but children don’t necessarily know that.
As teachers teach, they may or may not have already thought about little issues like this, which may not be so little for some children. Speaking to a group of children involves some juggling of details; what helps one child may baffle another. It’s not easy. At the end of a teaching day, it’s a good idea for a teacher to take a little break. Take a little break.

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