The older I get, the more I feel out of touch sometimes with the children of this generation, even at third grade. Yes, some things cycle around such as the bell bottoms several years back or the language students use, but one thing doesn’t seem to ever change – the guidelines to communication. By no means am I an expert on communication. In fact, sometimes I struggle with typing up my blog because I want to make sure I’m communicating well. But communicating with students is something I will not compromise on due to its importance in the classroom.
I think these guidelines would apply to any grade level or any person in general. Some will likely seem like common sense, but when communicating with students, we could all use a refresher.
1.) Communication takes communication. What I mean by this is that a person is not going to open up to you if they don’t feel comfortable or feel you’re trustworthy. To build that trust, we need to be willing to share about ourselves, our feelings, and thoughts. If you are able to relate in some way to a student, that will definitely help them be willing to open up. When you do have to share with them something you don’t approve of, use the “I feel…” or “I see…” method. One thing I have learned (mostly from being a married woman) is that by saying “You…” immediately places someone in the defensive.
2.) Listen. Most of the time, from my experience, it seems kids just want to be heard. Once they say their piece, they are good to go. It doesn’t always have to be orally. One of my students this year wanted to constantly tell me a story. Of course, I’d love to hear them all, but I just possibly can’t. I have to teach too. So, I provided the student with her own personal journal to write in. She would write me her stories, and when I had time, I would reply in the journal. It was very helpful and a win-win. I have also learned that reflecting back language helps students really feel listened too. For instance, if they are clearly communicating they are feeling frustrated, say “It sounds like you are saying you are very frustrated.” That creates the feeling of “she/he is really listening to me” and that you are relating! I think sometimes there are too many electronics in the world and unfortunately that takes time away from what’s most important – even parents with their kids. Not all parents, but I do believe that so many children now feel they need to compete with their parent’s cell phone and social media. They just need attention – and to be heard.
3.) Be aware of what you’re not saying. This is the one I’m guilty of the most. I’ll tell my husband, “I’m fine” but he knows better. My body language clearly communicates I’m not fine – even when I try to act fine. How we stand, our facial expressions, how we react; it all sends a message. If we are wrestling with papers on our desk, I’m not sure it is communicating with students that they have our true attention. I know there are times we just have to do our things too. If you can get down to their level and be more private, that not only sends the message that you respect their privacy, but it also helps them feel that you are on the same “playing field.”
4.) The Golden Rule. I’ve been hearing about the golden rule since I was in kindergarten. It will never go away (I hope!). We should talk to children the same way we would like them to talk to us. We are role models. I’m often surprised by how many teachers I see that act a bit superior or have a small power trip. The things we say can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – both in writing and speaking. We shouldn’t use condescending language such as “this is so easy” or belittle a child’s dream (no matter how crazy it may seem). Finally, avoid sarcasm. I think kids get sarcasm more than adults think. They may hear it from friends or family members. In reality, sarcasm can be belittling (and a hard habit to break), and communicating with students should never be belittling.
5.) Encouragement. It is important to show optimism and use encouragement. We are their personal cheerleaders. If we cheer students on, it catches on. I love to create team building in my classroom where we encourage one another. Students rise up to a higher level and build their confidence. You can go a long way with confidence!
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