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5 Things Parents Need To Know About Communicating With A Teacher

5 Things Parents Need To Know About Communicating With A Teacher

After living with a family of teachers for my entire life, and teaching a bit myself, I’ve learned much about the ins and outs of the trade. One of the things I would constantly hear about from them was their interactions with parents (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

Indeed, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a story about parents communicating with teachers in an improper manner, and I have heard a litany of suggestions as to how to fix these interactions.

Below, you’ll find a few things I think all parents should consider before trying to contact their child’s teacher. I realize that there will be times when your anger towards a particular teacher is justified (been there, done that). That being said, these tips will help to keep things civil!

1. Tone is Key.

When writing an e-mail or talking directly to a teacher, remember that the tone of your delivery matters a lot. It’s basically all about respect, really. You want to address your child’s teacher as the professionals they are, not as a friend or a family member. Treat them like your doctor, or if you attended college, like your professor.

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I remember my college advisors telling us to always be cordial and respectful to professors, even if we had a pressing issue or felt we had been wronged in some way. This advice served me well, as I can’t remember getting on any of my professor’s bad sides, even when I had to talk about touchy issues with them.

The same theory can be applied in your interactions with a teacher. Always communicate with them in an understanding manner, and they’ll reciprocate.

2. In-Person Communication is Always Better.

I know we’re all busy, especially if you’re a parent who’s simultaneously working and taking care of your kids. But even so, if you really have something you want to get across to a teacher, make the effort to meet them in person. I always liked to go to office hours in college rather than shoot an e-mail to a professor, mainly because I knew I could get across what I was actually feeling much better in person.

When you’re communicating through e-mail, you might be compelled to write a few things you would never say in person. Or, you might not say what you need to say in the proper tone.

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When I was a teaching assistant, I didn’t deal with parents at all, but I did deal with 19 year old college students all of the time. I can tell you that I was much more able to address their concerns in person, than I was able to online.

3. Don’t Express Your Frustration on Social Media.

If there’s a teacher you are particularly at odds with, don’t resort to social media as a way to throw them under the bus. Yes, while you may be dealing with a problematic teacher, it’s still better to ask to meet them in person. On social media, you might say things in the heat of the moment that you don’t really mean, and these things might reach the ears of the teacher in question (especially if you live in a relatively close-knit community).

That’s a problem because once that happens, the teacher is angry, you’re angry, and your child is caught in the middle. There’s a bit of a theme forming here: direct communication is key!

4. Listen.

This goes both ways. You should listen to everything the teacher says. Listen to their concerns and suggestions. Really try to understand where they’re coming from. Conversely, the teacher should hear you out. You should both try to come to an amicable agreement based on whatever issue you’re having.

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More often than not though, parents and teachers try to talk over each other, rather than listen and understand each other’s points of view. In most cases, both sides will have valid perspectives. Since we are all adults, it’s our responsibility to find some middle ground

5. It’s All About Give and Take.

When I say you should compromise, I really mean it. For example, if your child is having an issue with their behavior or their reading comprehension, be open to all of the strategies for improvement their teacher suggests. They are, after all, the experts here, and they’re around your child nearly as much as you are.

On the flip side, if you have some valid concerns in relation to what the teacher is doing, bring it up in an amicable and understanding manner. To somewhat quote Yoda, anger leads only to the dark side!

The best case scenario is that you implement some of the strategies the teacher suggests, and the teacher takes into account some of the insights you have about your child.

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In Closing…

I know that there are some teachers out there who are maddeningly difficult to get along with (trust me, I’ve had more than a few of them). At the same time, know that the majority of teachers just want to do what is best for your child. As long as you understand that, and take it into account in all of your communications with teachers, you’ll do just fine. Additionally, you’ll win a lot of fans amongst the teacher population as well!

Remember: as your child gets older, you’ll have progressively fewer opportunities to contact their teachers. Eventually, once they reach college, you’ll have practically zero influence. At that point, it’s up to your child to do the communicating themselves.

So I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: set a good example. Be a good communicator. With luck, your kid will take after you, and they’ll grow up into model students for their future teachers and professors.

We all have problems we want to address at one point or another. What matters is how we go about fixing them (that’s pretty good, I think I’ll quote myself on that).

Featured photo credit: Teacher’s Pet/ Matthew via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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