Student Teacher Advice: Develop Great Communication Skills

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Author Bio: Dede Rittman is a 37 year veteran retired English/Theater teacher turned award-winning author and speaker.  Student Teaching:  The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher, is available at www.dederittman.com and www.amazon.com.

Dede’s weekly inspirational blog for teachers, Lessons Learned from the Bunny Teacher, is at www.bunnyteacher.blogspot.com You can hear Dede on the radio at The Total Education Network, where she is Co-Host and Producer. Follow Dede on Twitter @dederittman; LinkedIn Dede Rittman; Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman and Rittman Rules; Google+ Dede Rittman, or you can email Dede at dederittman@gmail.com

I loved teaching school for 37 years, and   I have continued my love for Education by writing a book for student teachers, Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop from A Master Teacher, with practical advice that everyone should find useful, informative, and a fun read. Throughout all of the chapters of the book are my Three C’s for Success in the Classroom (and beyond) – Confidence, Communication, and Creativity.  In last week’s article, I discussed the first C of Confidence.  In today’s article, let’s focus on the second important C- Communication.

Communication is a vital element of teaching.  To be effective, a teacher must be able to be seen, heard, and understood by every student in the classroom. Think about that!  With the air conditioner or heater blowing, 35 students in the classroom, desks scraping, and feet and paper shuffling, the voice must carry above all that noise to the students in the back row.  Not only must the voice be loud, the teacher must learn to articulate clearly, as well as speak with a pleasant intonation.  I recommend that student teachers should speak and record their voices for clarity, volume, pitch, and tone.  (Smart phones have many apps for recording.) The difficult part is listening to and critiquing the sound of your own voice.  Do you need to slow your speech?  Do you tend to let your voice drop and become softer at the end of your sentences?  New teachers may want to ask a trusted friend to be honest in assessing vocal patterns before the process of student teaching begins.  Once a person is aware of some vocal hitches, these are easy fixes, and well worth the effort.

Everyone who has ever attended school remembers the “teacher voice”, the piercing voice that could cut through the chaos and noise directly into the ears of students.  Student teachers should observe veteran teachers and their use of the “teacher voice”, which commands attention, often without being “mean.”  These observations will show student teachers that there are many forms of the “teacher voice” to be learned, as well as the value of developing a strong teacher voice which will “carry” you through your career.

Spoken words are not the only methods of communication in the classroom!  Teachers must always be aware of their body language and other forms of non-verbal communication with students.  A teacher’s body language shows students the confidence level of the teacher and whether or not the teacher is fearful of the students. (Teachers must NEVER communicate fear, under any circumstances.) Standing tall with feet firmly planted and making eye contact with students shows confident communication between teacher and students.  Swaying back and forth with a book clasped to the chest does not show confidence; it confirms fear. Eye contact is also an important tool for teacher communication.  Try to look every student in the eyes as he/she enters the classroom, and when presenting, look around the room at the students.

Good communication with teaching and school staff is essential during student teaching.  I suggest that student teachers call building teachers and staff members by their proper names:  Miss Brown, Mr. Jones, etc.  When a teacher, secretary, or principal does a major favor for you, it is a good idea to write a thank you note.  (Hand written thank you notes, thought to be a lost art, are highly recommended in this age of technology because they are so personal.  Trust me on this- a handwritten thank you note goes a long way in endorsing you as a person with good manners.  It might even help you to get a job.)

As a student teacher, you will be called upon to communicate with parents.  First, I suggest that it is never a good idea to meet with parents alone. Second, remember to be kind, and to choose your words carefully.  Even if you do not agree, you must recognize that parents are sending the school the very best children they have to offer.  Be sure to communicate clearly with parents; look them in the eyes, shake hands at the beginning and at the end of the meeting.  Begin by saying something positive about their child to set the tone of the meeting.  Help the parents to see that you care about the welfare and success of their children.  I have enjoyed great success through the years with the “team approach”: when the school, the parents, and the student all work together, the student will benefit and improve.

I hope that reading about the second C of Communication has been beneficial to you and has provided some strategies for you to employ in your student teaching experience.  Next issue, I will discuss the third C of this series, Creativity.

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