One of the most annoying things that can disrupt a phone conversation is a weak signal. It’s difficult to hear exactly what the other person is saying, and sometimes you can’t even agree which one of you has the faulty signal. You end up screaming into the phone or hanging up in frustration.
That’s kind of what happens when we can’t concentrate in the classroom. Students of Communication call it ‘noise’, which is basically anything that prevents you from understanding a message. So your teacher warbles on, and for some reason, at the end of the period, you just can’t recall a thing he or she said.
“One thing that can help us try to zone in on the class discussion is identifying what makes us zone out in the first place.”
One thing that can help us try to zone in on the class discussion is identifying what makes us zone out in the first place. For us Communication students, these are known as five types of ‘noise’, but you can simply think of them as disturbances or barriers to communication. They can be found in every classroom.
Let’s start from the most obvious one.
- It’s in the environment.
Physical or environmental noise. Maybe the room is too hot or too cold. Maybe one light is flickering or simply doesn’t work. Maybe your teacher’s handwriting is impossible to read, or the rain pelting the windows drowns out her voice. Whatever it is, your physical surroundings can potentially steal your concentration.What to do about it: Try to change your environment if you can. That means requesting that the aircon temperature be increased or decreased, or that the teacher speak louder, use a microphone or write more legibly.
- It’s in your body.
Physiological noise. This can be a result of your surroundings, like feeling cold because the aircon temperature is too low. It also explains why you just can’t seem to understand the simplest lesson when you have a terrible headache.What to do about it: Bring a sweater if you tend to feel colder than your classmates do, or a fan if it’s the opposite case. Bring water if you often feel dehydrated and thus, tired. See the nurse if you feel like you’re coming down with fever, since you’ll get scolded if you try napping on your chair.
- It’s in the words.
It’s called semantic noise. Isn’t it confusing when a teacher uses a technical term or jargon without explaining it? And admit it, sometimes you get bothered by the teacher’s use of grammar or pronunciation…What to do about it: If you don’t understand a technical term, ask your teacher to explain it. If you need to widen your vocabulary, read more books of different genres. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about your teacher’s grammar and pronunciation, except maybe suggest (kindly, okay?) that she improve it when you fill out teacher evaluation forms.
- It’s in your mind.
Intellectual or cognitive noise. Sometimes you just can’t muster the analytical prowess to grasp that math equation. Sometimes you haven’t mastered the previous lesson, so it’s extremely difficult to keep up. Sometimes, after a long day filled with lecture after lecture, your brain is just too overloaded with information and you need a break.What to do about it: If you really think you’re not analytical enough, enhance your ability through reading and solving puzzles. If you know the reason you can’t understand the lesson is that you haven’t studied the previous one, then do so. If your brain is on information overload, take a real quick restroom break and spend that time to daydream, sing your heart out, do a backflip (or not), or find something to laugh about.
- It’s in your heart (okay, hypothalamus).
Psychological noise. This can be the most complicated type of noise, because on top feeling things, sometimes you just can’t explain exactly what you’re feeling. You can be bored, frustrated, irritated, or all three at once. You might be heartbroken. You might be happy, so happy you can’t stay in your seat and listen to El Filibusterismo.What to do about it: Well, this is tough. Start by identifying your feelings, and their causes and effects. You can say you’re daydreaming because you’re bored, and you’re bored because you have no idea how this lesson will be useful in the future. So put your hand up and ask your teacher for tips on how to apply this lesson in real life.
I remember a physics lesson on air pressure where a teacher explained the best technique for holding your umbrella on a windy day. A geometry teacher showed us how to plot a heart on graphing paper using the X and Y axes, and told us how a boy once used this technique to court his classmate (obviously, the girl loved geometry – who knows, perhaps our teacher was talking about herself).
“Trace the roots of the problem, and see if you can do something about it.”
Of course, all these types of noise or barriers are interrelated. When the aircon temperature is too low (physical), you feel cold (physiological) and annoyed (psychological) that your classmates won’t let you lower the temperature. Because you’re annoyed, you can’t concentrate on the lesson because you keep thinking about how insensitive your classmates are (cognitive). If a cute guy (physical) is making you feel self-conscious (psychological) so that you keep smoothing your hair (physiological), tilt your head so he disappears for a while from your line of sight.
By tracing the roots of the problem, and knowing whether or not you can do something about it, it might become easier to endure even the most dragging school day.