Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Communication Magician

magicIn I am a Special Ed Teacher (read communication facilitator) from Teaching All Students, Patrick states,

“Special Education teachers have many hats - we are inclusion facilitators, behavior modifiers, aide trainers, academic advisors, and the list goes on.  One hat that I think is often overlooked in many cases is:  communication facilitator.”

How true this is! But sometimes I like to think of special ed teachers as communication magicians. Many times it is up to us to figure out what the student needs or wants to say through the students’ words and actions. The administration and general ed teachers look to us as if we can pull a rabbit out of the hat without any effort. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a teacher show up at my door and say in frustration, “Do something with little Johnny! He is driving me crazy!” Or a teacher will send little Johnny to my room as a last resort.

Many times when I sit down and talk with the student, I find out that usually he didn’t understand the directions or questions. Or there was too many distractions in the class for the student to concentrate. Or there are so many variables that affect this student and I have to investigate to find out the real problem before we can find a solution.

I understand that in the general ed classroom the teacher just doesn’t have the time to do this investigation and that is why it is left up to me. Sometimes it is easy to get frustrated and resentful because I am asked to do this but then I realize that it is in the best interest for the student for me to take time to do this. Once I am able to determine the problem, I am able to work with others to come up with a solution and then it is a win-win situation.

Sometimes the student isn’t willing to be open about the problems and will blame it on the teacher. As a communication magician, I need to get the student to open up about the true cause of the problems.

I start by asking questions that ask for details and this helps to not put the student on the defensive. I ask for details about what was the lesson about, where was the student sitting, where was the teacher, what was the student asked to do, what else was going on in the classroom. By asking for specifics and leaving the opinions/emotions on the side, it helps to calm the student down. Sometimes I might even ask the student to draw a picture of the location of everyone.

Next I ask for details about the lesson. What was the topic and the objectives? I then move to find out specifically what the student was asked to do. Usually at this point, I find out that the student doesn’t know. Now I need to investigate why the student doesn’t know. Did he not understand what was asked? Where others distracting him? Was he distracted by other things (personal issues, health issues etc.)?

Once we figure out what the problem is, I ask the student to help come up with a solution that I can bring back to the teacher. Many students are surprised that they are asked this. Too many times I have seen solutions given that the student doesn’t agree with or is not asked to give input on and this is why that solution doesn’t usually work. If the student has something invested in the solution, they will work harder at making it work.

When the student returns to class and is able to apply the solution, everyone is happy! The rabbit has been pulled out of the hat once again!

I’m so saying this process always works and sometimes the parents need to be called in to help find the solution but this is a great way to start. Calling in others is more like sawing a person in half rather than a simple rabbit out of the hat trick. But whatever is necessary to help the student be more successful is what my goal is all about.

How are you a communication magician (or facilitator)?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Day 167 - The Magician'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35258026@N03/4321365261 by: Christophe Verdier

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