An explanation always helps

When I’m teaching I am always keen to explain the steps that I expect students to take. I explain that clear punctuation, for example, is important because it allows our reader to make rapid progress. If necessary I will demonstrate this by asking students to read aloud a piece of writing from which I have removed all punctuation. Then they are more likely to understand and, once they understand, they will be that little bit more independent for they will have learnt something.

A year ago my GP prescribed a medicine to reduce the size of my prostate gland which was causing me to wake in the night to visit the toilet. After two weeks there was no change in my symptoms so I stopped taking the medicine.

The symptoms now are no worse, but they are tiresome still and I returned to the doctor’s surgery. She apologised – always a good sign – and explained that this medicine works slowly and that it might be several months before I feel the benefit of taking it. Had she told me last year I would now be symptom free.

I’m not seeking to apportion blame; I am both reluctant to take medicine and liable to forget to take it regularly. I merely want to show the importance of offering an explanation when we expect someone to do something. In the classroom, faced with wary and suspicious adolescents, I find that explanations are particularly well received.

Explanations suggest that the people to whom they are addressed are important or significant in some way and that the person providing the explanation is keen to help. A form of good manners really.

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