KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS – MODEL, PRACTICE AND TEACH

With the emphasis so much oriented toward communication via technology, face-to-face first person skills can be overlooked. They ought to be practiced.

EYE CONTACT

* Look at people. Don’t look over them, under them or around them.
* Engage people individually and collectively through eye contact. Rest on individuals and cover the audience.
* Make your eyes friendly, encouraging and inviting.
* Avoid flat or hostile eyes.
* Eyes are the most important parts of the anatomy when it comes to gesture.

GESTURE

* Compatible with the presenter and magnifying of speech.

* Gesture is a tool that can help emphasise and reinforce points.

* Overdoing gesture can undermine conversation because recipients are studying aspects of body language rather than listening to what is being said.

I recommend personal practive of these attributes and their encouragement by others.

ORAL COMMUNICATION – SO OFTEN OVERLOOKED.

Oral Communication is so important. These days the skills associated with oral expression are too often overlooked. Consider the following as elements that need to become ingrained into practice.

ELEMENTS OF VOICE, SPEECH AND SPEAKING

VOICE

* Vocal qualities. VOICE IS YOUR MAJOR WORKING TOOL

* Speech flow, including pitch, rhythm and speed.

* ‘Ah’s’, ‘um’s’, ‘er’s’, ‘aw’s’, and other speech fillers.

* ‘okay’ at start or end of sentences.
* ‘guys’ as a word of address to a mixed audience.
* ‘gonna’ rather than ‘going to’.
* Don’t overdo ‘so’, particularly as a never ending joining word.
* ‘could, could’ (double clutching)
* ‘I was, I was’ (double clutching)
* ‘Wh, when’ and similar double vocal movements.
* ‘and, um’; ‘um and so’; ‘you know’ ad infinitum.
* ‘um and or” ‘um it’s it’s …’.
* ‘aaaand’; ‘o n e’ (word stretching).

* Recognising and using punctuation.

* PRONUNCIATION and word usage

* A CONVERSATIONAL VOICE is engaging. A listening audience is reassured to hear program presenters speaking in a relaxed manner. Many listeners are working through the hassles of the day. A calm and relaxed manner coming at them over the airwaves is relaxing and reassuring.

* Using pause, allowing your audience time to digest and reflect on what you have said.
* Projection and outreach, avoiding ear burst and fade-out, which imposes ear strain.
* Use words to paint pictures, stimulating the listener’s imagination. Successful radio and media communications are those which, by their appeal, draw listeners to programs.
* If working on a presentation from within the broadcast studio, IMAGINE you have people with you as guests. Work as a radio presenter in the same way you would if others were there.



EYE CONTACT

* Look at people. Don’t look over them, under them or around them.
* Engage people individually and collectively through eye contact. Rest on individuals and cover the audience.
* Make your eyes friendly, encouraging and inviting.
* Avoid flat or hostile eyes.
* Eyes are the most important parts of the anatomy when it comes to gesture.

GESTURE

* Compatible with the presenter and magnifying of speech.
* Gesture is a tool that can help emphasise and reinforce points.
* Overdoing gesture can undermine conversation because recipients are studying aspects of body language rather than listening to what is being said.

Avoid accidental gesture which is off-putting. These might include the following:

* Wagging a cordless microphone while speaking.
* Rocking from one foot to the other or swaying from the waist.
* Neck movement which is out of sync with general movement
* Eye contact which has you speaking in one direction, looking in another.
* Randomly putting on and taking off spectacles.
* Holding and wagging or twirling glasses while speaking.
* Doing similar with a pen, lazar pointer or some other prop.
* Pulling at collar, sleeves or any other aspect of apparel.

INTERVIEWING

* Plan your interview so it flows logically. How do you want it to begin, develop and conclude.
* Be aware of time and ‘Commanding’ the program; don’t be usurped and don’t allow your agenda to be hijacked. Time awareness is essential.

COLLABORATE.

* Collaboration with like minded professionals is valuable and enriching.
* From collaboration grows synergy, the collective energy that is enhancing. It uplifts those who are working together in occupational fields.

* Those working in isolation can be left behind because collaboration is increasingly a strategy whereby we work to develop our professional ethos.

VOICE – A KEY AND OVERLOOKED COMMUNICATIONS TOOL

Consider the following. As teachers and leaders, our voices are our most significant asset. Don’t mute that talent.

* Vocal qualities. VOICE IS YOUR MAJOR WORKING TOOL

* Speech flow, including pitch, rhythm and speed.

* ‘Ah’s’, ‘um’s’, ‘er’s’, ‘aw’s’, and other speech fillers.

* Recognising and using punctuation.

* PRONUNCIATION and word usage

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* A CONVERSATIONAL VOICE is engaging. A listening audience is reassured to hear program presenters speaking in a relaxed manner. Many listeners are working through the hassles of the day. A calm and relaxed manner coming at them over the airwaves is relaxing and reassuring.

* USING PAUSE, allowing your audience time to digest and reflect on what you have said.

* PROJECTION and outreach, avoiding ear burst and fade-out, which imposes ear strain.

DISTANCE

It is both sad and worrisome that at times we Balkanise ourselves. That may be unintentional, being an outcome or product of unintentional attitude. Distance grows from being remote or aloof when associating with colleagues and students.

One’s identity is important, but any siloing of oneself, is distancing from fellow staff and students. That does nothing for effectiveness as a teacher because it is essential that close collegiate links are in place. It is the professional personality in relations that validates efforts, for this builds respect.

I am not for one minute suggesting fraternisation. This of itself can lead to a diminishment of professional character. However, effectiveness as a teacher means that knowing and working with students (and colleagues) in respectful professional (and teaching/learning) togetherness, is a winning strategy.

Know and respect colleagues and students.

SIGN ALL CORRESPONDENCE

Notwithstanding email and SMS traffic, there is still a place for old-fashioned correspondence by letter and printed memo. As a principal I valued the ability to transact communications using this ‘old fashioned’ approach. I always took the opportunity to personally sign all correspondence, no matter what the volume.

Attaching a signature in this way adds a personal touch. If signatures are verifiable as having been individually added, this somehow adds a note of empathy and personality in contract that is not otherwise available.

Dampening the signature just a little and adding finger pressure will quickly confirm if it has been personally added or is stereotyped. Often signatures are added in a different colour to the text but are still copied rather than being added by hand.

The receiver of a letter or memo that has been personally signed appreciates that the sender has taken time to confirm individual care. In personally signing correspondence, I reflected briefly on the person to whom the communication was being sent. This brief reflection was important.

Consider personalising correspondence in this manner. I am sure it is a positive strategy.

ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM PROTOCOLS Take Time to Set the Boundaries

ESTABLISHING CLASSROOM PROTOCOLS
Take Time to Set the Parameters

One of the issues that often confronts teachers is a belief they must teach from the minute they are assigned to a class of children. This ‘quick start’ impulse dominates at the commencement of the year, the beginning of a semester, the start of a term or whenever a teacher takes responsibility for a new class.

It seems teachers feel the need to jump in from the first bell, beginning to teach in a ‘go, go, go’ manner. Some launch as if there is no tomorrow. Others may approach the task a little more steadily, but it seems the majority are for making an impact from the first minutes of the first day the class becomes their responsibility.

Routines and procedures are the linchpins on which sound classroom development is predicated. Jumping into teaching ‘boots and all’ before taking the time to establish classroom protocols, is a recipe for disaster. While much of the routine establishment does not directly impact on academics, processes and procedures help in the holistic development of children. This can help develop positive attitudes to work and learning. Classroom environment and atmosphere is critical to helping children and students develop work and study habits.

The establishment of classroom routines is a prerequisite need and should not be overlooked. Once in place, procedures become operational precepts, leading in turn to good learning habits. Children’s attitudes to classroom care, property management and respect for resources, builds atmosphere and promotes harmony within the learning environment.

Part of sound routine and procedure, are the working habits developed with and for children. These habits go beyond the classroom because they are about individual training. Positive attributes include the following and many more could be added.

* Desk habits including pencil hold, paper position and writing posture.
* Use of loose sheets of paper including storage in books and files.
Putting things away properly.
Using bins for rubbish disposal.
Cleaning up when activities are completed.
Care when using the toilet.
Keeping hydrated.
Washing hands.
Talking and working in a way that avoids excessive noise.
Correct school bag and lunch box storage with bags and boxes stowed by habit at the start of the school day or at the end of lunch eating periods. Included is refrigerator opening and closing procedures, recess and lunch eating habits, rubbish and wrapper disposal.
Movement habits in and around school buildings including places for walking, running and playing. Hats on and off depending on the area of play. Lining up and readying procedures at the end of recess and lunchtime are part of the ‘movement and motion’ strategy.

The establishment of routines and procedures MUST be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in any classroom at the start of the school year. Once these processes are in place, structure for meaningful teaching and learning is facilitated.

Good classroom habits and practices complement to class rules and procedures, ensuring that things go smoothly. The time initially spent on this ordering returns tenfold in benefit terms because interruptions and disruptions are avoided. Boundaries are established. Expectations that have been discussed and programmed, unfold in a practical day-by-day manner in support of teaching and learning.

The pity is that as children move up the grades or experience different teachers on rotation, the impact of training can lapse and attitudes can deteriorate. Reinforcement and gentle reminders are necessary. The most important is the need for the school principal or delegate to ensure that incoming teachers are aware of the need to establish procedures with the class in the ways already discussed. Each teacher needs to develop his or her set of overall routines, procedures and expectations. They are not inherited and don’t pass by right from one teacher to the next.

Teaching is spoiled and learning diminished if classroom management structures are not in place and practised. Teachers can be too busy valiantly attempting to control, manage and discipline, to teach.  They wear themselves to frazzles and finish  up with a group of students who range from the very disruptive (those setting the class social agenda) to the very frustrated (those who want to learn but are not taught because the teacher is too preoccupied to teach).

Process, procedure, rules and regulations can be reinforcing and satisfying. That satisfaction embraces students, teachers, the class as a community of learners and the school as a whole. It is ever so important that the initial time teachers spend with a new class is a ‘steady as she goes’ period.

Set the Scene with the Children

A losing strategy for any teacher can be an attempt to set the classroom scene without involving the children. It is essential that class rules and procedures are established by teachers working with children. Classes need to own their governance. Rules won’t work if they are dictatorially set and enforced without empathy. Collectivity, with the group contributing to and therefore owning governance is the smart way to formulate classroom procedures.

Recognising the constituency of the class is important. Without having the right approach to classroom management, a teacher can become an isolated and unappreciated individual. No teacher wants to be overbearing to the point of being ‘sent to Coventry’ by his or her class.

First and Second Level Ownership

The way classroom procedures are developed confers ownership. Children who feel a part of the ownership stratagem are more likely to be compliant and act in accordance with agreed procedures than otherwise would be the case. (There will be exceptions but aberrance may not be tolerated. Recalcitrant individuals are likely to draw quick responses from the class collective. Rules break down and lose impact when there is little commitment and scant adherence on the part of children.

* Developing rules ‘with’ children rather than ‘for’ children is essential.
* Expectations need to be encouragingly rather than punitively worded.
It follows that if children are participants is creating classroom procedures they will regard them in a primary rather than a secondary way.

All this points to the need for teachers with new classes to spend time in a ‘getting to know and understand you’ phase with children and students.

Part of this will be (or should be) development of the class environment through shared shaping of agreed procedures. Several essential precepts come to mind. They are simple, based on common sense and easily overlooked.

* Class members need to be organised.
Pupils are best predisposed toward being organised if they share in creating organising structures, including classroom rules and procedures.
Routines established should be based on fair and predictable management and administration. There is a need for impartiality and even-handedness in all situations.
Teachers can’t teach control but should teach in a way that gains control. This happens best in classrooms where the principles included in this paper are applied.

In a Nutshell

Rules, organisation, routines and procedures are important. They need to be established by teachers working in a way that allows the first days and weeks to be spent on getting to know and understand the children and students in their classrooms. This is ever so important and ought not be overlooked.

Once ground rules and relationships are in place, teachers will be able to teach with the confidence that couples successful teaching with meaningful learning outcomes.

Teachers who go full on from day one and ignore the need to establish sensible management strategies with children, will pay a high price. They may well set themselves up for a long, tiring and frustrating teaching stint.

Henry Gray

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ONLINE COMMUNICATION HAS ITS LIMITATIONS

While written with the Northern Territory in mind, the thoughts conveyed have traction in all situations where communication is important. Don’t overdo the technological alternatives or skip on primary communication opportunities.

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ONLINE COMMUNICATION HAS ITS LIMITS

The NT. Department of Education (DoE) has a website. It can be found by simply googling ‘NT Department of Education’. That brings up a home page with links to all current initiatives, policies and everything else that relates to education. All it takes is locating the home page, perusing links and going to the information sought. Opening some links will reveal others that either extend a particular topic or point to sub-links for further elaboration. There are options for online reading, or opening and printing documents for later study.

Nearly every school in the NT has a website. A great deal can be learnt about our schools by googling school names and following the links. Included on the websites of most schools is information about their interpretation of Departmental policies. Priorities, processes and procedures are included. So too, are details about financial health and NAPLAN test outcomes.

Most questions people have about educational matters have answers that can be quite easily found by going online. Notwithstanding this source of information, questions often remain unanswered. One reason may be that answers to queries are not satisfying.

On occasion, what is written may be in language that is hard to understand because of terminology, acronym usage or jargon. Things need to be written in a clear, understandable and friendly genre. This may help minimise confusion. A good example of clear written communication is that of general information included in the NT News ‘Back to School’ supplement (22 January). Included were details about term dates and the ‘Back to School’ Vouchers. There is often ambiguity within the community about dates, school funding and parental assistance schemes. Clear statements in print clarify things far more quickly than an invitation to go online and explore issues requiring answers.

Old Fashioned Contact

While the Internet can add a dimension to communication, I do not believe it should replace the more traditional methods schools use when making contact with parents and community. Neither should the Department rely solely on web based contact . It is wrong to assume that people will, automatically seek answers to their queries by going online.

Online communication options have their place. However, the web places parents, schools and the Department at distance from each other. Online communication is impersonal. I believe there is a place for print media and conversation to be part of the way we discuss education. Traditional school newsletters, memos and letters retain their value as methods of communicating. Using the telephone to make contact is far more personal than receiving email advice about issues.

Nothing takes the place of face-to-face conversation. That should always be a feature of the way we interact with each other.

DON’T DISCOUNT LISTENING AND SPEAKING

We hear lots about the need to focus on the four element of literacy, reading, writing, speaking and listening. They are all important.

Unfortunately, they are sometimes regarded in ‘cart before the horse’ terms of importance. Reading and writing are held to be the major players in this literacy quartet. Speaking and listening, ESPECIALLY LISTENING are discounted.

Listening should be considered the first and very foundational literacy skill. Certainly it is the quality that engages babies and very small children. In terms of acquisition, listening, speaking, reading and writing develop in that order. Certainly these literacy skills are developed in what becomes a melded or blended fashion. They complement and reinforce each other.

The onus placed on reading and writing, discounting listening and speaking as happens, contributes to poor listening skills. Cognition and comprehension are both impacted. Also discounted by non-listening attitudes can be respect for the opinions of others.

Speaking cogently, politely and correctly also needs re-engagement. Sloppy speech is not a quality of which the user can be proud. What is said and HOW it is said are important quality.

Correct speech and careful listening are literacy attributes can can and do build confidence in people. They should never ever be consigned to second class status.

POETIC MEANDERINGS

I write onto ‘The Conversation’ which encourages readers to respond to issues. There are some who indulge a little at times through poetic expression  and responses. These might be specific or for fun.

The following have been published on conversational threads or on ‘The Conversation’ blog.

A little away from a purist educafrtional theme, but a change in direction is sometimes warrranted. This after all is my 150th post.

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POETRY IN ‘THE CONVERSATION’

EQUALITY

Ant hands out
Grasshopper, hands out.
Call that equality?

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SWEARING

Bad language should be taboo.
It is not good for me or you,
Event though we might be wild
To swear in hearing of a child.

It takes but little for to see
Said child wil copy you and me.
Bad words we utter without fear,
Response to child is a thick ear.
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POETRY

There was an alluvial miner from Quorn
A gold nugget he was going to pawn
His wife she found out
Gave him a sound clout
‘You waster’, screeched she, ‘I am gawn’.

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FROM SHORT WAKENING TO ENDLESS SLEEP

From

Birth to

Death there is

An intervening mortal period.

Of life starting with womb

Awakening and following that human.

For

Threescore years

And ten more

(Sometimes longer these days)

The mortal traverses the earth

Reaching toward the pathway’s end.

Finished

Almost before

It started out

The cycle of life

Ends, as the planet’s occupant

Returns to the eternity of sleep.

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GOOGLE THE BEST

Google is good?
Google IS good
Without ‘our’ Google
We’d be under a shroud.

You’ve opened our eyes
Informed our days
Praise be to Google
For cutting through haze.

You’re a fantastic search engine
‘Thank you’ I say
For shining a light
Down the Information Highway.

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TRUSTED COMPANION

Google is here yes Google is here
Always assisting life’s pathways to clear.

Better than most search engines I say
Google has unveiled the Information Highway

For us to spurn Google t’would be at great cost
Without Googles help the world would be lost

If you are lonely in singular state.
Turn to your Google and find you a mate

Students at uni shout hip hip hurray
Google helps us research our assignments each day

No matter who, no matter where
Our companion Google will ALWAYS be there.
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ALL WORK, NO PLAY

Work each day
As much as you can
But don’t let long hours
Lead to the ban
Of time with your family.
Relaxing each night
Is important you know
Without that shared time
Your life will wither, not grow.
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QUESTION

The NEW world they think and say
Nothing new its old to me
Ancient people before our time
To call them ‘new’ does not chime
With rhyme or reason
So I say
It’s all old, so old
Put ‘new’ away.

Don’t accept onus, me or you
They could teach us a thing or two.
Together all, mortal, alive
We have to make the world survive.
No excuses, them, you or me
We share responsibility.
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INDISPENSABLE GOOGLE

Google is our shining light
It brings cyberspace into sight
Without it’s index we would all suffer
We would never get enuffa
Understanding of what’s on line
T’would make us grizzle, whinge and whine
Yes, Google surely makes our day
As we walk the info highway.
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NO TO BULLYING

It is wrong, nay wicked and sad
To bully your peers, is evil and bad
Playing at God through your power base
Miscarries position. It is a disgrace
To denigrate others with innuendo and joke
Will backfire on bosses who wicked jibes poke
Into the faces of those who are training.
On you derision, not respect, is raining.
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OH WOE SAD, SEDUCED GAMBLER

Gambling is evil
Gaming a sin
A vile, repulsive addiction
Lets the Devil come in

It destitutes families
And ruins good lives
Exploding of families
Husdands lose wives

Children surrendered by fathers
Who say ‘family no way’
I cast you aside
To gamble each day.

A fortune you lose
Your inheritance waste
Your brain is a muddle
A blob of black paste.

The road leading to hell
Is a sad, lonely trek
But you care not a whit
For your life is a wreck.
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WHITHER POETIC FRIDAY’S

Oh poetic form
Whenst have you gone?
Were you but fleeting
A few weeks at best
Before those who rejoiced in your introduction
Became palled
At the notion of routine,
Fearing Friday
Coming ’round too rapidly,
Causing the thought of poetic chime
To be revisited all too quickly.

So too, it is with life
New ideas bring rejoicement
But quickly that subsides
As what is new becomes routine
Visiting obligation
That can become unpalatable
No longer fun filled
But more an obligation, a drag.
Fie upon us for so often
Grasping initiatives
But for fleeting minutes
Before letting go
Consigning what was
And what might be
To what is
The WPB.
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ALWAYS WRONG
AGAIN
And again
Ad infinitum
Mr Prime Minister

Whatever
Your call
You will
Always be wrong

There
Is NO
Way you
Can be right.

Others
Always know
Better that
You, the answer.

There
Is no
Straightforward way
You can find

Forever
You will
Be criticised
Until you lose.

Paradoxically
He who
Takes your
Place, will wear

Selfsame
Lampooning, ridicule.
You know
NOTHING is right.

Critics
Salve their
Consciences, because
All they can

Do is
Criticise, mock
For they
Have no answer.

Problems
Forever endure
For there
Is NO solution.
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UNIVERSITIES AND STUDENTS : SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES.

UNIVERSITIES AND STUDENTS : SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES.

Maybe some universities need to place more onus of responsibility on students. Attendance optionality at lectures, tutorials or at organised online sessions is anathema. Seems that some universities are happy to extract course fees for students than cut them so much slack there is no further obligation upon those students other than the completion of assignments or attendance at exams.

I am a part time lecturer and supporter of students at the CDU. I value my role with them and I know they appreciate their engagement with me. Importantly, we know each other as people. During sessions we are on the same plane together. I also have to mark assignments. Marking work submitted by ‘invisible and unknown’ students is a lot harder than knowing those whose work you are marking. Marking rubrics go some of the way but they don’t tell markers about student character.

I worry about students who enrol internally or externally in courses, then overlook course requirements. The university makes but the students who operate this way gain very little in terms of the learning collective. My role is with education. Education involves sharing. One of the skills encouraged with pre-service teachers is that they are able to developing collaborative skills. Relationships with peers, parents and students are important. If training in isolation is encouraged, little is being done to develop the togetherness aspect of what teaching is all about.

It is good to know students whose work you are marking. When you don’t know and have never met people whose work you are marking, both they and you are at some disadvantage.
My internal groups is not huge – 12 students tops. And yes, I would be very sure that we are on the same situational plane. I work in an old fashioned but effective way with students.

I have done online work with big numbers and make it my business to establiash an e-mail data base enabling me individual or collective contact. If they want a phone conversation, students can email or message and I’ll return calls and discuss issues. I also encourage students to network each other.

Over 40 plus years I have built considerable resource material and have most of it in electronic form. These resources I share with students on request or if I think a particular issue can be supported with materials I have to hand. My indexing system gives me fairly quick access to these materials.

I always ask students to feed back on practical experience (as pre-service teachers) in terms of both celebrations and challenges. I am writing a series of vignettes (70 to date) oriented toward providing students with ideas.

I have had much feedback from students appreciating this approach.

My other point is that lectures are not lectures. Our programs follow a structure and meet course requirements but it is all done conversationally. A three hour time period, with a break at the half way mark, quickly passes.

I would never claim to be conventional but that is not the major issue.