Good student trait: Listens and asks

Weekender

By THOMAS HUKAHU
THE previous top student trait that I discussed was “start early”.
And what I meant was students who succeeded in learning usually start early in some basic skills they are interested in.
You may also apply that quality in someone who is preparing to sit for examinations or preparing for a grand final in football. They all start early. They do not wait until two days before the big test and get to the classroom or field to go through some exercises.
If you are a Grade 8, 10 or 12 student sitting for your final exams this year, take note of that. You should prepare early for your exams by drawing up plans for a systematic way of studying. You should start early.

Listening – a must in learning
One of the top traits of a top student is “listening” – and listening well to people who are teaching him or her things. Many people fail in this many times.
When someone is talking, as in a classroom situation, people must listen.
When a teacher or lecturer is talking, students must listen. They must not pretend to be hearing – they must listen. (You can apply this in a church situation too. When the pastor is preaching, the congregation must listen.)
Failing to listen would mean the student would not understand everything that is taught.
Students must learn to keep their stories about what happened on the playing field or bus stop out of the classroom or lecture room. They must not allow such tales to distract them from getting the best from their instructor.
See it in another way: As a student, you have paid for the time to learn from the teacher or lecturer. If you do not listen carefully during lessons, you will walk away with possibly 70 per cent or less of what was taught you during the lesson. That means you have not received your full money’s worth of learning for that lesson.
You have wasted money.

A child is very eager to learn
A few years after I started teaching back in mid-1990s, I was reading the Bible and came across a passage which made me realise that the basics of the best principles in learning were also present in the book that told stories of people and their encounters with God – and that spanned thousands of years.
Let me direct you to that passage in Luke 2.42-52.
It is one of the best passages in the Bible on the importance of learning, as well as the best processes in learning.
The story is about the child Jesus.
The story goes that when Jesus was 12 years old, he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem, the capital of Judaea, which was then a province under Roman rule.
Do understand too that Jesus was raised in Nazareth and that is 104km away, so the journey would take a couple of days to get to the city.
We can be sure that the preparation and anticipation that preceded the journey would have been the talk of the adults and children for days, particularly those who would be making the trip.
The Bible tells us that after the feast in Jerusalem, the parents and the relatives left Jerusalem for Nazareth but Jesus was not with the travelling pack that was returning.
The parents did not realise that, thinking the child was with their other relatives. It was after a day of travel that they noticed that the boy was not with them.
Verse 45 tells us after three days of searching in Jerusalem, they found him.
And you know where they found him – not in the market place admiring the food, fruits or toys, but in the temple.
For convenience, let me give you the actual description of what happened then (from the King James Version):
Verse 46 tells us: … after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
Verse 47: And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
Verse 48: And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, they father and I sought thee sorrowing.
Verse 49: And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
Verse 50: And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
Verse 51: And he went with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Verse 52: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Think about it.
His parents found the 12-year-old boy sitting with learned men, doctors of Jewish Law or related fields, hearing them.
It must have been an odd sight – a boy sitting and listening intently to experts who were five times older than him.

Asking questions
is vital in learning
Let me point you to another part of the top student trait for this week – “asking questions”.
In learning, students must ask questions after the instruction session – the listening session.
A student who is actively listening will have questions for his or her instructors, not only to understand a concept that is not clear – but also to point the instructor to give some explanation on certain aspects that the student can see that his instructor may not, or forgot to touch on in his explanation.
Learning should never be a one-way process where the instructor gives and the students merely receive.
Students asking questions make the learning process a two-way thing, and that is a good way of checking too if learning was effective and ways to complete the process would be devised if it was not effective.
In Jesus’ story, he was asking the doctors questions.
The doctors themselves were “astonished at his understanding and answers”.
That tells you that in some of what he said, the Child Jesus, sounded very lucid with his understanding of concepts in Jewish Law or related topics – and was also asked questions by the doctors, because it is said that they were also impressed with his answers.
This time the learner was questioned by the instructors and this is an essential part of learning.
In school, questions asked by the teacher, or given assessment tasks, test the students’ understanding of what was taught them.

Do PNG students ask questions?
Decades ago I was told by a peer in university that students in our country are too quiet in lecture rooms and they do not ask their instructions many questions.
So, lecturers often find that there is no good feedback on what is taught the students.

It was said too that expatriate lecturers found it rather awkward in that in other countries students always ask questions – whereas in PNG students shy away from that.
I was doing my third-year then when I heard that point and since then when I am in a lecture room I have always tried to ask a question during question time.
I have realised too that good questions help my peers learn better. Some of them do not understand as much as they appear to be and my questions may get the lecturer to rephrase the explanation given in such a way that it is clearer to others who do not understand.
There is one more thing that a good question does in a learning situation. I am giving that too you as someone who has taught students for years.
A good question often triggers thoughts in a teacher or lecturer which may be buried in his or her mind to share with students – it may be another way of teaching the concept or another example which may be better than the other shared earlier.
Good questions help the instructor dig deeper to give the best to the learners. Often we may want to ask a question but refrain from doing so because we think it is “too dumb”. But that may not be true.
If your question is genuine, you can be sure that a good number of other students in the class may have the same question but are not raising their hand to ask it.
A wise Chinese saying states: “If you ask a question, you will look like a fool for five minutes – but if you do not ask a question, you will remain a fool forever.”

Learning can be
a spiritual exercise
Let me get back to Jesus’ story in the Bible.
Did you notice that his relatives were amazed at what he was doing in the temple when they found him?
In verse 48, his mother had a good word with him in saying he had made them really worried in doing what he did.In verse 49, the boy responded rather strongly: How is it that you seek for me? Don’t you realise that I should be interested in God’s business?
In saying that Jesus had pointed to his mother that it was God’s plan and God’s business that he was in the temple to learn while he had the chance to be in Jerusalem.
It is not a good response from a child, but when you think about the matter of priority or importance, I think Mary, the mother, understood.
It has been stated by researchers that in Judaism, the religion of Jews, learning is a top priority – it has been and always will be.
Would that not be the reason that we have many Jews who have been pioneers in different fields? The famous physicist Albert Einstein was a Jew.

Topics for you to research
The story of Jesus teaches us that listening as well as asking questions and answering questions being asked by instructors are vital in the learning process.
Let me give you other topics that you may research on.
Try to read the book of Daniel to see how Daniel was trained and what he stood for – that enabled him to serve under different emperors who governed Israel.
The story of Jesus in the temple was penned by Luke, or Lucanus, a companion of Paul in the New Testament. (Luke was a trained medical doctor and was the New Testament historian. He was a Greek and wrote the gospel which bears his name, as well as the Acts of the Apostles which chronicled the days of the Early Church.)
This account of Child Jesus is told nowhere else in the New Testament.
I realised a few years later after studying Jesus’ story when I read “Beloved Physician”, a book about Luke’s upbringing and education.
Luke was educated in the University of Alexandria, so the story goes.
He was a highly educated man and knew the importance of learning.
I believe that it was his own experiences that had him asking the disciples questions about the Child Jesus to get this account recorded. (Luke never met Jesus personally but the stories he penned came from him interviewing the disciples and who lived and worked with Jesus.)
You can research on Luke’s story too. It may teach you a lot about the importance of learning as well as vital processes that are still used today.

  • Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer

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