Management skills are often thought of as needed only for boardrooms and sports teams. But there’s one entire group of professionals out there who don’t spend their time with business executives or athletes, yet are forced to try and manage the world’s most challenging, unpredictable population.
The professionals are teachers, and their hard-to-manage audience is made up of children. If anybody needs to feel confident on his or her management skills, it’s the classroom teacher. One misstep or mismanagement, and an attentive classroom can devolve into a train wreck. So how can teachers throughout New Zealand, Australia, and North America manage their classrooms like a pro?
It comes down to persuasive communication.
Every lesson is an act of persuasion
Large chucks of educational lessons are called “UNITS”, but the individual classes held each day are organized by what teachers refer to as “lessons.” And each lesson taught – each school day that passes by – is yet another attempt by the teacher to persuade students. The goal of a teacher’s lesson is to persuade his or students and to involve them in the production of knowledge. While a teacher may have some easily (and self) motivated students in a class, a good number of students are resistant to a lesson. If they weren’t, then a teacher’s job would be far less challenging (yet still difficult) than it is.
Teachers aren’t paid to reach the students who are already invested. Teachers make their living by ensuring that every child inside a classroom is given the same opportunities and education as their classmates. Here’s how teachers can use persuasion to inspire their students to learn.
Using emotion during your persuasive communications can be effective, if you know how to use it properly. In order to use emotion effectively, you need to know your audience. At the start of your school year, you can use emotion to a point – by generalizing the age group and backgrounds of your students – but don’t overdo it. Teenagers, for example, like to feel independent, so you can touch upon that as you introduce them to your teaching style (let them know that they have the choice of when to go to the bathroom, for example, rather than having to raise their hands). But don’t use emotions too much until you actually get to know your students individually. That way, as you teach lessons, you can connect to each of them in a unique way.
Even children like data. Think about the little kid who constantly asks why. While you’ll never truly make him stop asking why, you can give him solid information (and more reason for him to ask other questions!) with data. This, again, is extremely effective for older students. Younger students tend to believe every word that their teacher says. Teens are a bit more hesitant. But that’s what you want – a student who wants to learn for himself, and not just accept information because “I said so.” So you present your students with statistics or data (or have them discover it on their own) in order to persuade them to believe what you’re saying.
Any teacher (or parent) knows compromise. It’s the one thing we swear we’ll never do, but always fall back on to get our way. It’s no wonder, then, that we all have a bad idea of what compromise is. But why? It doesn’t have to be such a negative form of persuasion. Sure, it’s often seen as the tool used by less-skilled persuaders, but approached in a different way, and it can be a vital tool in a teacher’s toolbox.
When you compromise, you give the other person something they want, in exchange for what you want. In the classroom setting, your goal is to get your students invested in their learning, but you certainly don’t want them to gain the upper hand by allowing them to make demands. So, when you compromise, you set limits on what you’re willing to offer. Don’t offer things like candy or a night off from homework. And here’s why: candy isn’t related to your end goal (education), and a night off from homework sends the message that homework is a punishment, not a learning tool. Rather, give your students more options in how they get to learn (or prove they’ve learned) an upcoming lesson. That way they get to exercise their independence, and you get what you want: your students are invested in their own education.
Need more tips on how best to use persuasive communication in the classroom or other professional setting? AACT-NOW presents seminars, workshops and more throughout New Zealand, Australia and North America. Contact us today to learn more.
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