The awareness of communication, positive relationships, policies and legislation, in the school setting. The awareness of communication, positive relationships, policies and legislation, in the school setting. Introduction.
This essay is to identify the different ways people communicate while trying to build positive relationships and to explain how communication affects relationships with adults and children in the school setting. When referring to children I will be focusing on the 5-11 age range as this is pertinent to my role as a teaching assistant, with emphasis on children aged 6 rising 7 as this is the age group with which I interact with on a daily basis.
People communicate for different reasons; these reasons are as follows;
* To maintain and promote positive relationships.
* To encourage the children to communicate effectively.
* To share knowledge and information.
* To ensure that everybody knows what is expected of them, what their role is. * To get their point across.
* To help people understand how you and others are feeling and act accordingly. * To work together.
* To prevent errors.
* To express your wants and needs and understand the wants and needs of others. * To help build and maintain trust.
* To negotiate and liaise with others.
* To ensure safety in the work environment.
Effective communication ensures that the above will happen, and that positive relationships will be formed.
Communication is an essential in human society, I believe our ability to communicate effectively has been instrumental in the success of our species. Poor communication can result in disastrous outcomes; if one or both parties are misinformed harm could occur. Communication is particularly important in the work setting as it affects the relationships you build, and therefore the outcomes, positive relationships lead to a positive learning environment, positive relationships can only be achieved through good communication.
In the school setting effective communication will result in a positive and productive learning environment, ensuring each child will reach their full potential. Team communication is important as it is vital to keep everyone in the group informed about expectations of knowledge, behaviour and procedure. The dissemination of pertinent information concerning individuals be they an adult or child, can prevent errors and /or upset occurring.
Within the school environment one is expected to communicate effectively with colleagues, including peripatetic colleagues, children, parents and other professionals i.e. health visitors, speech and language therapists, social workers, other schools, Police and other governing bodies. It is important that everybody is provided the information they need, in a way in which they are able to assimilate the information, and that is presented in a form that is acceptable to them, e.g. one would not impart information to a child as one would an adult, care would be taken to use language suitable for the listener to ensure full understanding without causing offense such as speaking in a patronising fashion to adults or using advanced vocabulary to a child.
Communication is vital in understanding ones role and what is expected of one, it prevents anxiety and increases efficiency and effectiveness, and promotes a feeling of safety and well being. The same applies when dealing with children. Communication is vital to establishing effective relationships in the school setting. It allows one to expect support from ones colleagues and to provide them with the necessary support in times of stress, uncertainty or difficulty, with children it allows one to expect full participation in an activity and enables them to feel they can convey any anxieties or lack of understanding they may have.
Communication strengthens relationships, builds trust and mutual respect, creates a happy and professional environment, gives a sense of belonging, is motivating, draws better communication from others, allows open mindedness and compassion and makes people feel safe and secure, enables empathy, increases tolerance and the feeling that your voice matters raises self esteem and good communication saves time, a precious resource, in short children learn better in an environment where there is good communication.
One example of cultural differences is that in the Netherlands ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are not an expected part of everyday speech and interaction, understanding that a Dutch child would not expect to use these words regularly would prevent the listener from being offended or thinking the child is impolite, conversely explaining to the child that these words are expected in British society will help them to fit in and not to feel uncomfortable by causing offense. To understand cultural and religious differences good communication is required, whether this be verbal or through the written word, parents of children from different cultural and religious backgrounds should be encouraged to share their knowledge with their child’s school, this can be achieved by communication between parents and the school being regular and open.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.
Britain has adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and if one is to uphold these, good communication is essential, if a child does not feel safe, protected, valued as an individual, able to let their voice be heard they will not disclose information that may enable adults to help them, and they will certainly not be able to reach their full potential within the education system.
Children are made aware of their rights through a formal setting such as assemblies and pse lessons and in the less formal setting of making reference to their rights in everyday occurrences’ such as reminding children who are disruptive that they are interfering with fellow pupils right to learn when they are shouting out or being excessively noisy. The more people of all ages communicate the better the understanding of each other which leads to individuals feeling valued and therefore better able to express their wants and needs with a higher expectation that those wants and needs will be met.
To create positive relationships with others one must value and respect the individual, fostering an environment based on mutual appreciation of one another’s strengths, weaknesses, cultural background and expectations, effective communication is the only way to achieve this. Communication is vital and there are many factors to considerate to achieve good communication thereby building positive relationships;
When communicating, one should focus fully on the speaker, his or her body language, and other nonverbal cues. If you’re daydreaming, checking text messages, or doodling, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation.
Occasionally communication between adults or adults and children is necessarily casual such as the asking for a piece of paper by a teacher during a plenary lesson, the information is relayed, received and acted upon but no meaningful relationship is shown, the same may occur when asking a child to collect a pencil, this in my opinion is acceptable and all parties feel that information has been received and understood, but there are factors that should be considered during even these brief interactions, one should look at the person you are talking to, with a smile or a relaxed expression on ones face, ones tone should be polite, one should say please and gratitude should be expressed. Children base their views of themselves and the world on their daily experiences.
One of the most important experiences adults can provide for children is to talk with and listen to them. Through these daily interactions, children and adults can develop relationships that help children to learn about themselves and the world. Adults who care for children have a responsibility to create and maintain positive and healthy relationships with them. One of the most practical and mutually rewarding ways to achieve this goal is through positive communication.
Communication is an active process; to communicate effectively one has to consider many factors, good communication involves active listening as well as speaking.
A child or adult who is looking away or crouched over in a self protecting position will not be receptive to you, you may need to focus that person on you in a gentle non threatening way by calling their name and suggesting you would like them to look in your direction, if their body position suggests anger or fear you must start by holding an open pose considering your proximity to the individual, children often feel more comfortable with a smaller personal space than adults, although some cultures prefer a smaller persona; space, between same sex individuals e.g. Arabic cultures.
If you find it hard to understand a speaker, try repeating their words over in your head—it’ll reinforce their message and help you stay focused. Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns, by saying something like, “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk.
You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere. Avoid seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone. Show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”
Know their name and how they would like to be addressed e.g. Jonathon may prefer to be known as Jon and Miss Davies as Ms Davies. Make the speaker feel heard and understood which can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you. An environment where everyone feels safe to express ideas, opinions, and feelings, or plan and problem solve in creative ways, is necessary. Save time by helping clarify information, avoiding conflicts, misunderstandings and do overs. Relieve negative emotions. When emotions are running high, if the speaker feels that he or she has been truly heard, it can help to calm them down, relieve negative feelings, and allow for real understanding or problem solving to begin.
A summary of factors to consider when communicating with others to help form positive relationships:
Position, mirror the height of the person to whom you are addressing, do not stand over the other person, sit if they are sitting. If you are addressing a standing child lower yourself to their level so that they are not intimidated by your height. Face the person you are talking to. Posture, do not cross your arms over your body, keep them relaxed at your sides if sitting or in your lap or in front of you if standing. Slumping in a chair can be read as disinterest. Make eye contact with the person you are talking to, good prior communication is important here as some children with autistic spectrum disorders find this can make them uncomfortable, prior knowledge of the students IEP or statement can help to determine the length of eye contact you maintain and whether the child is to be encouraged to make eye contact.
I have some difficulty with hearing and tend to study people’s faces whilst talking to help me interpret what is being said, I therefore have to watch for visual signals to let me know that the person feels uncomfortable because they feel they are being scrutinised, this can be a small downward tilt of the head or averting their head, I usually tell adults that my ‘staring’ is due to my hearing, with children, I often explain that I need to look at them to hear them correctly, if I feel they do not understand this I try to break eye contact more frequently. Making eye contact makes a person believe that they have your attention and you value what they are saying. Don’t fiddle, doing something else, fiddling with pencils etc can make people feel you are disinterested, even if you are listening. Keep your face relaxed, smile where appropriate.
Gentle nodding can convey interest.
Respect for the other person must be maintained at all times, use their name first name for a child but title is more appropriate form of address for senior staff, or colleagues in front of children. Addressing other members of staff by their titles in front of children shows your respect for that other member of staff and encourages children to do the same.
Be polite, even if reprimanding a child, there is no need to be rude. Be professional, language and speech patterns, such as slang one would use at home or with friends is rarely appropriate in the work setting, be it with an adult or child. Try not to raise your voice, it accomplishes little and may be perceived as anger or loss of control, both destructive to relationships. Consider your tone, a softer gentler tone may be more appropriate for a child than for a colleague, a more respectful tone may be appreciated by more senior staff. Avoid slang or colloquialisms in the work setting.
Always consider the person you are talking to, their age, sex, position, cultural background, religion, first language, hearing ability will all need to be considered when talking to another person e.g. You would not say ‘What is the fluffy, pink, cuddly Easter bunny bringing you on Sunday?’ To an adult, a boy, a person of non Christian faith. This may seem a flippant example but it illustrates my point and leads me on to my next suggestion.
Humour can be a great way to forge relationships, laughing together can bring people closer and relives tension, children can learn well through humorous situations such as silly games. There are some situations where humour can be detrimental, such as following bereavement or during a disclosure, as it can then appear hurtful or insensitive.
Be self aware, know if you have personal tics such as finger tapping and try to control these when engaging with another person. If you have had a bad interaction with that person in the past try to forget about that and see each interaction as new. If you have any preconceived ideas on a particular ethnic or cultural group it is useful to acknowledge these to yourself, being aware of your own prejudices can help you see past them and hopefully to overcome them. Be honest, people will usually see through untruths and feel hurt or even angry about being lied to.
Being honest about negative feelings can actually help build positive relationship, allowing someone to know that what they have said has hurt you in some way can lead to reparation and prevent it happening again. Praising work that is below the standard of which that person young or old is capable of does not encourage improvement commenting on the positives in a piece of work such as you have tried hard with your handwriting, your work is neat and then offering constructive criticism such as please use capital letters at the beginning of sentences, is a more honest approach, both parties will be aware of what is expected of them, this applies equally to adults as well as children.
Empathy for those around you makes you more approachable and able to form positive relationships. If you are able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes you will be more compassionate and less likely to become angry or upset, or cause anger or upset.
Showing interest in others helps to build personal relationships, ‘How was the party?’ ‘Is little Johnny feeling better? ‘How are you?’, but it is useless to ask the question unless you take the time to listen to the reply. Ask questions about the response “what did you eat at the party?” Make a positive comment “I’m glad he’s on the mend you were right to take him to the doctor”.
Keep your emotions in check, getting upset, angry or frustrated can result in communication and relationship breakdown, taking a metaphorical deep breath when you feel you are misunderstood or are unable to understand what is being said to you can help. This allows space for each party to reassess the situation and try to impart the information in a different way so both are satisfied. Take time to ensure you really understand the information given to you or that the person receiving the information understands, by reflecting back the information e.g. ‘Mrs Boss, you would like me to get a blue book for John, okay’ or asking the person to retell you the information you gave them, ‘”what do I need you to do?”, “you said please get my coat’ Give the other person time to respond, don’t rush a reply.
This is especially important with children or adults with speech and language difficulties such as Aspergers spectrum disorders, hearing problems, a stammer or someone for who English is a second language. Be clear on what you mean, if the other person does not understand rephrase it, repeating something not understood the first time will not improve understanding, but it could cause the other person to feel upset or stupid. If there has been a disagreement take time to discuss how you both feel and how it can be resolved, small unresolved differences can result in total relationship breakdown. Be punctual, people can be made to feel unimportant if you are late.
Respect others opinions, having differing views can actually enhance a relationship and does not necessarily mean one of you is wrong. Respect confidentiality, when speaking to an adult or child, the speaker has a right to expect that the conversation will be private, there are obvious exceptions such as when a child or adult discloses something which is causing them harm or is a legal issue, it is imperative in that situation that the individual be made aware that you will not be able to respect confidentiality in this situation, but you should encourage the individual to speak to the appropriate individual themselves offering yourself as a companion rather than say you yourself will report what you have heard.
As a rule if someone says “don’t tell anyone but” to maintain what is obviously a positive relationship, it is prudent to explain before they start that if there is an issue of wellbeing you will have to report it, e.g. abuse in a child, alcoholism in an adult.
Offer help when able, small acts such as holding a door open for a colleague or child or helping to carry a load cost nothing but can literally lighten someone’s load and make them feel valued. Circle time is a valuable resource for building positive relationships as behaviour modelled during these times can show a child how we ask questions and listening attentively to replies, seeking expansion on comments where necessary. Circle time helps us to learn about one another to increase awareness of each other as individuals and that we are all different yet can take comfort in the knowledge that others may feel the same as us, such as a change of class is frightening for many and hearing that others feel the same can make one feel less alone and part of the group, it is reassuring that others feel as you do.
Circle time can be useful for those children who are eloquent or have a large vocabulary but may have a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, to shine as they feel equal to others during conversation, this can help them to feel positive about themselves, raise their self esteem and help others to see them as ‘clever’. Having said this it is important to be aware that children with speech and language difficulties may find circle time stressful, gentle encouragement, awareness of when a child is becoming stressed, allowing them time to respond and good class management, (ensuring the rest of the class are paying attention to the speaker) can help. Circle time helps to build positive relationships by modelling good communication, allowing individuals to express themselves; it can allow others to know your thoughts and feelings about situations which foster feelings of being understood and understanding others.
Knowledge of how others are feeling and what they think about issues encourages understanding, empathy and respect resulting in raised self esteem, feeling valued and that your differences are understood and accepted. Children who having difficulty forming positive relationships may benefit from The Derbyshire positive play scheme which can be a valuable tool in building positive relationships between adult and child and child and their peers, children who do not understand the social rules of play can become caught in a spiral of social exclusion and anger, understanding the rules of play help the child to relate to the greater world and ease their way in it.
The Derbyshire positive play scheme is essentially a one to one play time, allowing the child to feel special and nurtured in a safe environment whilst a non judgemental modelling of behaviour is shown. The Derbyshire positive play scheme has been evaluated by Sheffield Hallam University and found to be an effective early intervention tool in supporting children, raising their self-esteem, enabling them to access the curriculum, and so achieve their potential. Ofsted defined the Positive Play support programme as ‘An early intervention tool, reducing disaffection and encouraging inclusive education’. The Derbyshire positive play scheme aims:
•To allow young people a space to express and communicate feelings and difficulties in their lives, through a variety of media in constructive rather than aggressive ways and in a safe non-threatening environment. •To help young people feel good about themselves, and raise self-esteem by providing activities that look at their strengths and by valuing what they do and making it special. •To provide a non-authoritarian, supportive, reliable, safe, unconditional relationship within the school and other settings. •To provide some of the early experiences that might (may) have been missed but which are necessary for formal education and social interaction. •To help young people acquire the complex range of life skills needed to achieve their full potential.
“Daily check in”, which is a simple, ‘How are you?’ at the start of the day can allow a child to express how they are feeling, negative feelings are responded to and this can help the child to feel less worried whilst raising awareness in others that the child is in a more fragile mental state and extra care will be needed. Positive responses allow the chance for others to instigate conversation later involving both parties and allowing a relationship to grow, “oh! You’re having a puppy I’ve got a dog called Shep what will your puppy be called?” Sharing small personal details such as having n upcoming party can make people feel closer to each other.
I would like to expand on how different social, professional and cultural and social contexts may affect relationships and the way people communicate. Communication is not always straight forward and may be affected by many factors as outlined in the preceding paragraphs. Key areas for consideration are language, this does not just include EMLAS pupils, but also if you or the person to whom you are speaking are from different areas of Britain, colloquialisms and slang should be avoided, e.g. training shoes are known locally as daps, people from outside the area would be unaware of this.
The vocabulary you use should be audience appropriate, use of multi syllable words may be intimidating to a child if they do not understand, whereas adults may find the use of over simplified language patronising. Individuals with a sensory impairment such as a hearing or visual impairment will need special consideration; situations such as these will often require help from outside agencies who will advise on the best way to communicate with the individual, it is important that this information be disseminated throughout the team, so that all members communicate effectively. Sensory problems may not be immediately recognised, if the T.A. has concerns it is important that they are brought to the teachers notice. Problems need to be identified before solutions can be found.
Persons with a speech, language or communication impairment will need a unified approach from the education department, the SENCO, speech therapist, educational psychologist, class teacher will all liaise to determine the best approach to facilitate communication and allow the child to fully access the curriculum, it is the T.A.s responsibility to be aware of the best strategies to deal with the child. Speech, language or communication impairment may not be immediately recognised, if the T.A. has concerns it is important that they are brought to the teachers notice. Problems need to be identified before solutions can be found. It is important to be aware of peoples Cognitive abilities, the brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex.
They have more to do with the mechanisms of how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention rather than with any actual knowledge. Any task can be broken down into the different cognitive skills or functions needed to complete that task successfully. For instance, answering the telephone involves at least: perception (hearing the ring tone), decision making (answering or not), motor skills (lifting the receiver), language skills (talking and understanding language), and social skills (interpreting tone of voice and interacting properly with another human being).
Any problems with cognitive ability in children are often identified, but it is important to be aware that parents may also have cognitive impairment, if you suspect a child or parent has a cognitive impairment it is important that you bring your concerns to the teachers notice. Problems need to be identified before solutions can be found. The emotional state of all the participants can affect the way people communicate, heightened emotional states, such as excitement, fear, anger and distress can lead people to misinterpret what is said to them or to say things they do not mean or in a way that is difficult for the recipient to understand.
When talking to parents it is important to acknowledge cultural differences e.g. Hindus status is often conveyed by their surname, it is not unusual for a traditional Hindu to react with deference to those whose surname indicates a higher caste or to refuse to listen to the opinion of those they see as inferior. This can lead to a difficulty communicating problems a child may have and therefore reaching a solution. In some Muslim cultures young boys actively discouraged from taking the advice or orders from women, this can carry forward to adulthood. It is important if this appears to be the case to not take this personally and to work to find a solution, team work could be invaluable here as others may have found an effective way to communicate with the individual.
Today’s society is perceived as being all encompassing and it is assumed that everyone is equal, but it pays to be aware that some people are uncomfortable around those they perceive to be in authority, this can make them evasive or even hostile, it is therefore imperative to form a positive relationship through persistent and gentle attempts at communication, building mutual respect and trust. As those negative feelings may filter through to the child and may adversely affect their learning.
The opposite is also true that occasionally those that feel themselves socially superior may attempt to ‘talk down’ to you and refuse to listen to what you have to say, it is important in these situations to keep focus on the importance of your information and not your feelings of discomfort in the forefront of your mind, remembering that the child’s well being is important to both of you. Form of communicationFactors to consider
Formal meeting with headDress neat and clean, stand until invited to sit, respectful tone, use of title, keep calm, be polite, confidentiality, awareness of body language, avoid slang. Informal conversation before or after schoolFriendly tone, open posture, be polite, confidentiality. Parents eveningIntroduce yourself, appear approachable, appear professional, dress neat and clean, respectful tone, use of title, keep calm, be polite, confidentiality, awareness of body language, avoid slang.
Responding to an emailFriendly but professional tone, use title, pay attention to grammar and spelling, ensure all points raised are covered, ask someone else to read it before sending. Childs reportProfessional tone, avoid slang and jargon, emphasise positives, allow right to reply, identify problems gently with suggestions for help. News letterChatty, informative, jargon free, pay attention to grammar, accuracy and spelling, make it interesting, both visually and content.
Courtney from Study Moose
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