The game of communication

After three weeks of teaching in Korea, I’m starting to realize how often I think I’m communicating when I’m really not, at least not what I want to communicate.

Students are really good at acting like they’re paying attention. School preps us for that. School teaches us either how to pay attention or how to act like it. The kids come in, they sit, literally a captive audience, and they either learn or get really good at making it seem like they’re learning.

After all, that’s what academic education is all about: marks, scores, and grades. If the kids can have fun, great. But they know the purpose behind learning English isn’t communication but a better job when they grow up.

That’s why it feels like a game. The class is trying to fool me into thinking they understand, and I’m supposed to try to catch them when they don’t really get it.

For the first three weeks, they were winning. I didn’t know the rules or the object of the game. I didn’t know my part in it. I didn’t even know we were playing.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like most communication turns into this same game. The people listening to us are trying to fool us into thinking they understand, and you and I are supposed to try to catch them when they don’t.

Problem is, like me the first three weeks teaching, we’re oblivious to our part in it. We don’t know the rules or the object of the game. Most of the time, you and I don’t even know we’re playing.

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