You’ve Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement by James Alan Sturtevant

4. Nonverbal Communication: What You Don’t Say Matters

  • Facial expressions, posture, movement, gestures, and many other nonverbal factors give strong messages of acceptance or non acceptance. Words are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. James even goes to far as to say that in your classroom, your body speaks more loudly than your voice, even if you yell. He goes on to give tips regarding face, arms and hands, legs and feet, and posture. He recommends that you sit when possible next to students to make them feel more like you are with them.
  • You can also ask your students which of your nonverbal communications they feel send an accepting messages. You should also bring your colleagues into this conversation. Keep in mind that people often get so involved in decoding body language they are seeing that they forget about the messages they are sending. If you do this right, if should be fun. In the activity section of this chapter you can construct your own body-language profile to help you clean up your nonverbal act.

5. Safety: They’ve Gotta Know You Have Their Backs

  • James finds it very helpful to ask students to share experiences with teachers that made them feel accepted and connected or not. He finds that when he listens to students he always learns. Students find it difficult to learn if they are anxious, fearful, or confused. They feel safe, however, when they are welcomed, affirmed, supported, and respected. They also need to know that their teacher is an advocate and that they have a good chance to succeed academically. Student safety includes physical, emotional, and academic components.
  • With that in mind, each teacher needs to evaluate the safety of their classroom. James provides a checklist on page 151 of items you need to consider. Since first impression is vital, you need to carefully plan it and communicate that your students are entering an environment that is safe in all the key ways. Let them know that relationships are your top priority and that it is your job to help them succeed. Be sure to show energy and passion for your class and your job. James offers tips for clarifying expectations, preparing for the first day, and surviving beyond day one.
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