The magic of the explanatory teacher

Vandini Sharma

Of all the teachers in school there’s always one whom the students remember. The one in whose class everyone is silent, more out of interest than fear; where even the naughtiest kids in class sit still and the whole class leans forth for something different from the last six hours of sitting at the desk, paying attention and painstakingly taking notes. That is the magic of the explanatory teacher.

A quiet, attentive class is the dream of every teacher. How ideal it would be if the children could just sit and listen. Most of the time teachers are struggling to simply keep the kids quiet, resorting to shouting or making the students feel guilty.

A rather favourite anecdote of my teacher was how she felt she had a loudspeaker attached to her mouth; she was turning voiceless with all the yelling she had to do.

Yes, kids seem to take quite a toll on their teachers. But just look at it from their point of view. Constantly sitting at a desk from morning till noon, taking notes and paying attention is enough to drive anyone crazy!

A high school teacher with 14 years of experience, Alexis Wiggins, actually experimented shadowing two students from classes 10 and 12. He became a student for two days and did everything he was supposed to do being one; taking classes and tests, copying notes form the board, etc. By the end of his study, Wiggins was stunned at the revelations he’d made.

Within a day he was reminded just how tiring a student’s life was.

“We forget as teachers, because we are on our feet a lot – in front of the board, pacing as we speak, circling around the room to check on student work, sitting, standing, kneeling down to chat with a student as she works through a difficult problem…we move a lot. But students almost never,” says Alexis. His solution was to install a Nerf basketball hoop in class and encourage kids to play in the first and final minutes of class!

child-kiss-to-teacher Perhaps this won’t work for everybody; yes we respect your time. It’s understandable that teachers only get a set 30-45 minutes in class and engaging in any other activity might seem wasteful. But what’s the point of teaching if your students aren’t listening? It can be incredibly tiring to sit for five hours, so make time for five minutes.

So isn’t it a teacher’s duty to give the students something fresh and interesting? It’s easy to drone from the textbook for hours, we all like the sound of our own voices after all. But being the explanatory teacher means to quit reading from the textbook and start putting your chalk on the board.

As an example, we had an excellent science teacher in school. She simply used to explain the concepts on the board without making us read through the whole enormous chapter and yet nearly the whole class got above 90 percent in their exams. Best of all was the policy of not making us copy from the board; she told us to simply write what we’d individually understood from her explainations.

We used to finish our syllabus with weeks to spare for the final exams and it’s unbelievable how quickly a chapter of 10 pages could be covered by just explaining the core matter on the board rather than ploughing through every single word in the book. She was the favourite teacher in the entire school and kids loved her.

Explaining topics not only makes students’ lives easier, you also win a lot of hearts in return. Some things you should remember for being an explanatory teacher are:

  • Don’t stick to the book. It’s vital to explain matters on the board.
  • Try to encourage some physical activity in class for a few minutes. Make the kids get out of their chairs.
  • Set a particular time to speak and stop when it’s over. Don’t over speak but allow kids to ask questions and give their points of view.
  • Ask quick general questions about the topic you’ve explained. This helps you gauge how much your students have learnt and also keeps them thinking.

It can be a quick escape to always look at the book and read, but it’s important to remember that one is teaching not to cover a syllabus but to ensure that something enters her students’ minds. Being an explanatory teacher is easier than you think and will also lighten your workload. Best of all, students will understand and love you for making their classes livelier.

The author is a 13 year old student writer. She has been published in magazines like Golf Plus, Amazing Kids, Life Positive, etc. She attends a course through Writers Bureau London and also participates in national fiction competitions. She aspires to be a successful novelist and write books which will entertain and inspire people. She can be reached at

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