Being an effective speaker is essential to an overall strategy to create a classroom your students look forward to coming to every day—which then provides powerful leverage to influence behavior.
You can’t afford to leave it to chance. You can’t afford to make mistakes that cause hearts and minds to drift and misbehavior to arise.
In parts one and two we looked at the importance of speaking softly, waiting before speaking, talking less, and refraining from repeating yourself. This week, we’re going to cover the final two most common speaking mistakes.
Whereas the first four, when corrected, cause students to actively listen, the final two will allow you to reach out and grab them by the lapels.
Failure to make eye contact.
It’s common for teachers to go through entire lessons without making eye contact with students. Most scan their eyes as they speak and do look at their students, but rarely will they make any real connection with them.
This is an easy habit to get in to.
You become so focused presenting your material that you fail to engage your students. If you simply watch them as you ramble on, seeing them as a single mass instead of 32 distinct individuals, then you’ll leave them behind to daydream and misbehave.
It’s critical to draw your students into the word pictures you paint for them. They must care about what you’re teaching. There are many ways of doing this, which we’ll cover in future articles, but one of the easiest is through your eyes.
Eye contact of just 2-3 seconds with each student acts as an invitation to take part in whatever you’re presenting. It pulls them into your lessons and stories and causes them to become invested and committed to seeing them through to the end.
Eye contact also builds instant rapport, influence, and likability. It’s warm and persuasive and communicates to students that they can trust you and what you have to say. It also endears you to them, causing them to want to please you, partake in your enthusiasm, and prove to you they understand.
When you purposefully seek out brief moments of eye contact while presenting lessons, you’ll notice your students nodding along with you, smiling, and hoping you’ll make another eye-to-eye connection with them.
Note: Lingering eye contact can make some students uncomfortable, including those with shy personalities and from certain cultures. Keep it brief and pleasant.
Talking instead of teaching.
A calm, clear, soft voice and a relaxed disposition is the right tact when managing routines and behavior, giving directions, or handling the general business of your classroom—all of which make up most of your day.
But it’s a mistake to carry a lack of zeal into the presentation portion of your lessons.
Whenever you have an objective to teach or a story to tell, it’s time to let it out. It’s time to marshal all those reasons why you first wanted to become a teacher, to reach down and pull out that part of yourself that is unique, remarkable, and inspiring.
Now is the time to roar, to whisper, to mimic, to playact, to give your students something they can’t get from anyone but you. Now is the time to laugh and emote and make faces and move your body.
It’s easy to lose heart when you struggle with classroom management, when you have a million things to do, when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but you can’t let it get you down.
You can’t let anything stand in your way of being that one teacher that makes a difference. And oh, how your students will appreciate it, and follow you wherever you take them—into worlds of wonder, interest, and adventure.
Your passion while presenting lessons will give you effortless rapport with your students, edge-of-your-seat attentiveness, and a classroom management plan with power.
Keep It Simple
Many educational experts take what is simple and make it complex. They’ll take a two-minute tip and turn it into a three-hour seminar, replete with its own rules, multiple steps, and caveats to navigate before you can become proficient.
But at its best, good teaching isn’t complicated.
It’s just been made that way. Be wary of anything that isn’t readily understood. If you can’t put it into practice right away, if it doesn’t make common sense, then it’s best to let it go in one ear and out the other.
This series is a perfect example. You don’t need a college course or professional training to improve the way you speak in front of your class. You just need to be aware of what works and what doesn’t.
You’ll improve the only way you really can: by actually doing it.
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