Monday, February 8, 2021

Say What You Mean

In Useful redundancy from Seth Godin's Blog, Seth Godin shares,

“Sometimes, we assume that the person we’re engaging with knows exactly what we mean and want to express.”

One of the most important strategies in the classroom is to say what you mean and to teach students to do the same.

Many of my students with disabilities had a major problem with reading people by their voices or body language. I couldn’t beat around the bush with them and hoped that they understood. I couldn’t give verbal hints in order to soften what I was saying.

If I needed them to do something, I just had to be straightforward and tell them what I expected. This really helped them because they were not spending unnecessary time trying to figure out what I was really wanting them to do. Once they knew what expected, they could work towards meeting that expectation.

I also couldn’t assume that they understood when I was frustrated or angry or sad. They had a lot of trouble deciphering the moods of others. So, when I was feeling a certain way, I tried to remember to share my feeling with them. Sometimes I would also get them to explain what they see when I tell them how I am feeling. Eventually, they could learn visual cues without me having to explain them to them. Unfortunately, different people have different visual cues so the same ones do not always apply to the same mood.

These students also had trouble expressing how they feel and sometimes I could not tell from visual cues from them. Many times, they would act out because they were feeling a certain way. It was my job to help them learn to use words to express their feelings instead of using negative behavior. I try to help them see that communicating with words will let the other person know how they are feeling so that help can be given. If I know how they are feeling when they use words, I’m not playing a detective trying to figure out if they are frustrated or sad, or angry. If they are frustrated because they are having difficulty with a task, I can help them work out the problem. If they are sad, we can talk and that might help the sadness. If they are angry, I might be able to help them fight an alternative to a problem that might help them feel better.

I think that is the hardest part about teaching a course online. I don’t meet with my students face to face and everything is done through emails or submissions online. I don’t get a sense of what they are really understanding because I can’t hear their discussions or read their body language. I don’t hear their tone of voice so I can’t sense frustration or anger or bewilderment.

Many teachers are teaching virtually and it is hard to get a read on a student’s mood through a computer screen. Parents are having to deal with these moods at home and are not trained to handle behavior due to education issues. Teachers are trained in how to teach and how to manage behavior.

How do you teach students to say what they mean? Please share.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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