The best teachers listen. Vic Braden is one of the most famous tennis coaches of all-time. When I interviewed Vic, he said the most important element to being a great coach was listening. Learn how to be an amazing teacher.
My first job straight out of college was that of a high school history teacher. As a teacher, I was so concerned with presenting the material that I never actually took the time to listen to my students to help them learn and grow. It was not until I became a tutor did I really harness my listening skills to accommodate the needs of my students. The best teachers are those who listen first and guide students to invest in their own learning.
My first week as a teacher brought about my first test to my students. I was excited. I prepared all the material I had taught them and I was eager to see how they did on the test. They bombed it. At first, my instinct was to blame my students, saying they didn’t try enough and that they should have studied harder, but in retrospect, I did not listen to them and I did not teach at their level so they could perform well on the test. It was a valuable learning experience for me because I began to learn how to listen to my students first, teach second and assess their learning when all was said and done.
As a tutor, I worked with Nick who struggled in school. He perceived himself as lazy, even though he was not and in order to get him to work with me I used my listening skills to help inspire him. I asked him questions about the things he enjoyed and I tried to incorporate those into my lessons as much as possible. Slowly, Nick began performing better and through continual listening and readjustment, Nick began to perform better in school. Listening drastically helped my tutoring ability.
Vic Braden is probably the most famous tennis coach of all-time. He’s met presidents, instructed the worlds best tennis players and is revered by everyone who has any knowledge of the history of the game. In talking with Vic on the Defining Success Podcast, I learned quickly that the skill he thought was the most important to his coaching career was listening. He listened first and came up with action plans second. If the greatest tennis coach of all time thinks listening is important to coaching, don’t you think it should be important to you as well? Sales is something that is outside of my comfort zone, but every time I make a sales presentation, I learn so much just by listening. I’ve also learned that many of the mistakes I’ve made come from not listening well enough. Each time, the potential buyer explains their needs and it was up to me, as a salesman, to listen, pick up on those needs and then use my product as an opportunity to solve their problems. But, sometimes, I focused more on what my product offered and the values it could bring in a general sense . . . rather than solve their specific problem. The listening skills I learned as an educator and a tutor has helped me in uncountable ways throughout my life. I’ve learned to become a better teacher and can sell my services much better once I truly listened to what my potential customers were saying rather than what I thought they wanted from me. The best teachers listen, truly understand and then offer their assistance as a peer. The next time you find yourself wanting to educate someone on a topic of interest, ask them questions, listen to their responses and respond as if you were them.