By Ellen Yamaguchi
As a person who enjoys a good, deep conversation, I always put the focus on what I can say or share in a dialogue; however, this past year has taught me the power and the importance of simply listening. As a sophomore this year, I have noticed that I have been the person that my roommates, friends, and even my conversation partners come to whenever they are confronted with a problem. Whether it be a late-night phone call, a spontaneous lunch, or a conversation at Leavey Library, they will begin to talk about what has been bothering them and, through that process, they find peace within themselves. In one of my first sessions with a 1-1 conversation partner, the student was telling me about the difficulties she had within the classroom and speaking up because she did not want to feel the shame of people not understanding what she was saying. I started to sense that the conversation was going to be tough for her, so I asked if she wanted me to give advice or to just listen. She was shocked that I had even asked that because one of the reasons why she was having trouble speaking was because no one would even attempt to just listen to her. People would immediately tell her what she is saying is wrong and correct her as a default response. I then realized that something I thought was natural was actually extremely rare to find in people. A trait that I thought did not carry a lot of meaning actually has a large impact on others. From a single conversation with this student, I decided to strengthen my listening skills and to be engaged with any conversation that I have, whether it is trivial or not. You really do not know the impact that you have on someone’s day, and their single interaction with you might be the turning point of making a bad day into a good one.
Continue reading The Power in Listening
By Masae (Emily) Yamanaka
In many Asian cultures, it is very common for students to not speak at all in a classroom setting. They are merely in schools to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the teachers. Absolute obedience is viewed as a virtue. “I don’t want to waste other people’s time.” “Nothing I share can be that important to interrupt the flow of the lecture.” “Teachers know best.” Almost all the Asian international students I have had resonated similar sentiments.
On the contrary, in a traditional American classroom, you will find the teacher picking on students to voice their opinions. With that being said, it does not mean blurting out anything you can think of in class. Your responses should be relevant and contribute to the topic under discussion. This system strives to build young independent leaders and focus on sharpening critical thinking skills of the youths.
The Two Systems
A main difference between Eastern and Western educations lies in its prime focus. Asian systems utilizes teacher-centric classes where the teacher serves as the main authoritarian figure and answers questions directly from the pupils. Lecture is the main mode of instruction. Students are often dissuaded from exchanging ideas with each other.
The American system employs a student-centered setting where students share ideas with each other and actively participate in the learning and teaching process. Originality is greatly stressed upon and valued. Since each student is unique and no two students have the exact ways of thinking, students can learn from each other and stimulate self-understanding by listening to others’ questions.
Personally, I think Eastern educational institutions offer a wider breadth of knowledge, as teachers who specialize in specific topics get more time to instruct without disturbance. However, being given more content does not equate to the amount of substance pupils actually absorb on average. This one-way direction hinders solidarity as youths are taught to unquestionably oblige to what is given. A more collaborative setting not only promotes critical thinking but serves as a built-in check-and-balance within the classroom since teachers would need to take into account inquiries of everyone and could not simply recycle previous teaching material. At the end of the day, humans are individually unique and each class’s batch of students are different from another.
Continue reading Be Brave: Speak Up in Class