Everyone learns in a different way; that’s the great thing about teaching… the challenge is to see why an individual cannot understand what you’re trying to say, and then to find something that will make it intelligible. Some teachers expect you to understand what they’re saying, but fail to take into account that our understanding of certain words might differ quite widely. E.g. “Make an internal rotation of your arms” will mean different things to different people. Or, “Feel a connection between your left hip and left elbow”… Or “Slip your rear heel”… Or “Allow your right hip to lead the movement”… … and so on.
I guess we’ve all had teachers who have got cross with us, apparently because we couldn’t understand something – in reality because they couldn’t explain it, or couldn’t find a language that connects the pipeline between you and him/her, (or were so much in their own head that they were unable to understand ‘how you could be so stupid’).
I’ve had several of the latter, and they are the ones that can inflict the most damage – they see the lack of understanding not as their problem (an inability to communicate), but your problem.
An incident that illustrates this most for me, and which I remember much more clearly than I would like to, took place when I was 9 or 10, and involved the headmaster of my school, who also happened to be the Latin teacher.
One particular lesson is embossed on my memory. He had asked the class to parse the word ‘loca’, in other words to state its tense and meaning(s); I remember quite clearly not understanding what he meant by ‘parse’. He grew more and more angry and eventually threatened that the next boy who was unable to parse the word would be taken into the gym (which was next door) and beaten. Within 30 seconds or so, the unfortunate victim (a boy called Griffiths) was selected, it wasn’t me, and he was taken into the gym and caned; we listened to the entire encounter. The headmaster must have felt better after that, because he dropped the whole matter, and the lesson continued along another track. However, our joint terror as a class has always remained with me – an immobilising, mind-numbing fear that completely stops you from functioning both in mind and body.
So when someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, perhaps they’re not listening, but more than likely you’ve not defined your terms correctly, are not being clear, and, more importantly, you’re not connecting with the listener.