The Peaceful Class: 13 Secrets for Effective Communication in the Classroom (Episode 45)

       Even the most expert teacher has difficult moments trying to communicate effectively with students. We long for peaceful moments during our day an in our class, but sometimes it feels so impossible and far away. Today, we're going to walk through the 13 Secrets for Effective Communication in the Classroom. We're super grateful for Roger and Becky Tirabassi's Rules for Effective Communication that we've adapted to the teaching world. They totally shine a light on some simple but powerful tools. So here we go!
       Watch the YouTube video of all 13 Secrets here >>>

 Today, we're going to walk through the 13 Secrets for Effective Communication in the Classroom. Even the most expert teacher has difficult moments trying to communicate effectively with students. We're super grateful for Roger and Becky Tirabassi's Secrets for Effective Communication that we've adapted to the teaching world. They totally shine a light on some simple but powerful tools. So here we go!1. We won’t ever use the words “NEVER” or “ALWAYS.”
       Whatever the situation or the emotional temperature of the classroom, here’s the nugget . . . when we use absolutes, we put our students on the defensive, and *BOOM* we’re no longer on the same team.
    They stop listening to what we’re frustrated about immediately. Instead, they focus on the ONE TIME they turned in their homework on time or the ONE TIME they listened to your teaching and raised their hand to ask a good question or THAT TIME LAST WEEK when they shot a paper wad at the trash can, missed, but still responsibly snatched it up and slam-dunked it. When we use “always” or “never,” we unintentionally sabotage our message by distracting them from the real issue. (Read the more detailed blog post.)

       2. We won’t use “You” statements.
       Instead of saying, “You need to get back to work,” you might say, “I feel like you might not realize how little time you have. Please get back to work.”       Instead of, “You have such an attitude this week,” you might say, “I feel like you’re not aware of the attitude you’ve been having.” Or even, “I feel like you’re having a bad attitude.”       Instead of, “You’re being so disrespectful to her,” you might say, “I feel like you’re being disrespectful of other students’ learning time.”       This may seem like a stupid game of wordplay, but it’s not. Adding a simple phrase like “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe” to the beginning of your statement cuts the edge off your words and is less likely to spark defensiveness in your student. Your words go from sounding like fact to sounding like your emotions and opinion. It softens the blow. (Read the more detailed blog post.)

       3. We won’t name call, label, or belittle.
       We’ve all been called hurtful names. Many of us even had teachers or parents who called us names or made us feel small. And if that adult repeated that name enough or said it at just the right vulnerable moment, chances are pretty good we remember the very instant the words were said to us.
Call a girl “shy” enough, and she just might become it. Command a boy to “stop being such a baby,” and he might stuff his emotions deep inside. Tell a teenage girl she’s getting a little chubby tummy, and an eating disorder might result. Tell that boy in P.E. to stop throwing like a girl, and we’ve disrespected both the boy and ALL the girls.
(Read the more detailed blog post.)
       4. We won’t use generalizations.
       Remember, our goal isn’t to fight. We don’t want to make our students mad. The problem is that these generalizations don’t deal with the specific situation at hand, and that should be our goal. Deal with the Right Here and Now, and try to tap into their hearts and minds.
So instead of a general statement like, “You never listen to me,” which breaks Rules #1, 2, & 4, we could say something like, “Just now when I asked you to get your Grammar Ninja packet out and turn to the Conjunctions page, I felt like you weren’t listening to me.”
(Read the more detailed blog post.)
       5. We won’t blame or shame. 
     A wise man once said, “Do not provoke your children to anger.” So instead of resorting to blaming or shaming, let’s be hyper-aware of which words or phrases we say privately or publicly that might induce shame or blame and the resulting anger. What if we became agents of positive gossip instead of negative rumors? We’re not trying to take power out of your hands, but rather to put the right kind of power into your hands. We can do it. Let’s change the culture. If you’re like us, you’ll be a bit surprised at how often you think or say phrases like this. (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       6. We won’t criticize.
     As unthinkable as a root canal without anesthesia sounds, our natural tendency is to do the unthinkable with our words. We see something we want fixed in our students, and we jump straight in with the drill. Pain and all!
What would our interactions with our students look like if — instead of diving right to our criticisms, frustrations, and irritations — we affirmed them first? (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       7. We won’t lose control.
     We are the adults. We’re supposed to be the mature ones in the relationship. If we expect our students to have obedient hearts and actions and keep their patient composure, then we’d better set the example. Like most things in life, they learn how to be patient or lose control from us. And maybe you remember that teacher that it was kinda funny to watch lose their patience? I wonder how many times I have moments as that teacher… (Read the more detailed blog post.)

       8. We won’t make demands.
      No matter how bad their behavior may get, though, their disobedience (or slow obedience) does not give us permission to get impatient and break these rules. Remember, our goal is to “not provoke our students to anger,” and our demands invoke anger. So we must ask. And ask again. (Read the more detailed blog post.)

       9. We won’t use threats.
      When we aren’t careful, it’s not hard for our demands to morph into threats. Just stick an “If” at the beginning and a “then” in the middle, or a “You’d better” at the start and an “or else” at the end, and we just switched from demanding to threatening. We might not want to call them threats or think about how our words might be angering our students. We just want to keep things under control. We want control. But we need to be aware of our threats because our students’ feelings are real and we made them feel them. (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       10. We won’t tell our students we are “angry” at them.
     Anger is a secondary emotion. It proceeds from other primary emotions like hurt, irritation, frustration, insecurity, abandonment, rejection, fear, or uncoolity (made that word up). To communicate well with our students, we should never tell them we’re angry, because that isn’t accurate. We are something else. For this to be effective, we’re going to need to teach our students what certain words mean. Cue Emotional Vocabulary lesson. What is frustrated? Disappointed? Disrespected? Scared? Sad? Ignored? Impatient? Any of the emotions their actions frequently stir up in you. Once we’ve frontloaded things by teaching these words, then when we’re in the moment, we have a common language. (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       11. We won’t withdraw or isolate.
     Withdrawing or isolating from your students can be as harmful as outbursts of anger. These behaviors can create powerful experiences of abandonment and rejection in people, and in a classroom, they can create a wall between the students and the learning. If we’re so out of control or frustrated that we just can’t handle it anymore and order our students from the room, we risk leaving them with powerfully negative memories. (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       12. We won’t speak (or interrupt) until we have completely listened to our student. 
     In any conversation, it is rude to interrupt. For some reason, though, when we adults begin speaking with students, we forget that they are people too and that normal rules of speaking apply when talking with them. If our goal is to “not provoke our students to anger,” then we must speak to them with respect. Unconditional respect. 
     And we do mean unconditional. This means we respect them before they respect us. They do not have to earn our respect. None of this, “I’ll respect them when they respect me” stuff. That means: No interrupting. No cutting them off. Not to correct facts. Not to provide counterpoints. It breeds frustration, and after time, their frustration can boil into resentment. (And we can all imagine what resentful students are capable of.) (Read the more detailed blog post.)
       13. We won’t make stuff up (a.k.a. When Teachers Lie).
     This one is super tempting. You’re the boss. You know what’s best for your kids. You know what’s dangerous or foolish. You have the combined wisdom of your family tree, your friends, the adults around you, your church family, and your spouse. But this does not mean you get to just make up rules because it would be easier for you.
      I can’t think of a single instance when it’s better to feed them small lies because it’s easier for us. How much better to talk about these things when they’re younger. Even when they’re squirrely. Even when it’s tough. Even when it seems they aren’t listening. Even when we don’t have time. Even when we’re tired. Especially when we don’t want to. Because that is likely when they need us to talk things out the most. (Read the more detailed blog post.)

       Conversation of the Day: Which one of the thirteen challenges you most?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Check out our longer blogs on each secret >>>

These secrets are adapted with permission from Roger and Becky Tirabassi's premarital workbook for seriously dating and engaged couples - The Seriously Dating or Engaged Workbook. Roger and Becky have also co-authored a book for married couples called Little Changes Big Results for Crazy, Busy Couples. The principles in these books have changed so many areas of our life. We highly recommend them.
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