Most of us have seen the popular Verizon commercial featuring actor Paul Marcarelli, an affable “test man” who roams the most remote parts of America, repeating “Can you hear me now?” into his mobile phone. The message Verizon wishes to send, of course, is that unlike those who subscribe to other cellphone providers, Verizon users can rest assured knowing that they will never enter “dead zones” that interrupt their service.
Verizon subscriber or not, the truth of the matter is that many of us live in a “dead zone” when it comes to positive teacher student communication. Why?
Well, if you buy what Sam Horn suggests in his book, Tongue Fu! at School: 30 Ways to Get Along with Teachers, Principals, Students, and Parents, miscommunication happens because we often fail to redact simple words and add other, more constructive ones to our working list of vocabulary.
We recently picked up a copy of Horn’s book and wanted to share a few tips to help educators better communicate with students.
2 Simple Steps to Help you Improve Teacher Student Communication
- The first step: Remove the word “but” from your vocabulary.
Why? “But” may technically be a conjunction, but it does very little to connect us to those we are communicating with. Think about it for a second. When we respond to what someone has just said with “but,” we are actually undermining everything he or she just said.
- The second step: Substitute “but with “and.”
There’s a simple way to disagree with someone and legitimize their viewpoint at the same time: Substitute the word “but” with “and.” Below is a simple script to help you put this play into action.
In the following scenario, a student—who has been absent from class for a week without explanation—returns, but does not have two major assignments that were due when s/he was gone.
On the left column, you’ll see what happens when you use “but” to make your point; in the right column, you’ll notice why using “and” is a more constructive alternative.