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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

I Am A Communicator

“Tall Girl” is a label I have heard since Jr. High in the 1980’s. Looking back, I don’t believe this was meant to be a “negative” label, however it was taken negatively by me. This label affected my perception of myself. Today I have been reflecting on my communication skills. Many things influence my communication style. I will be focusing on; perception and self, verbal communication, listening, and summing it up with nonverbal communication.

There was no on-line shopping during this time period of the 80’s when I was in Jr High. It was extremely difficult to find pants that were long enough, shoes that were big enough, swimsuits that had a long torso and the list goes on and on. Many times, I wore pants that were too short for the current fashions, this created a negative perception of myself. These feelings were created inside of me, through the comments of others which affected my ability to communicate because I could not overcome the barrier of self-consciousness. If I had not been labeled as “tall” I believe I would not have been so self-conscious and therefore able to communicate better with others. This labeling created my social reality.

“Sharing Sherry” is a label my siblings gave to me as a young child. I believe this label created my social reality because not only do I share freely with others, but I have grown to be very generous. It is hard to know if I would be as generous as I currently am without this label. As a communicator, I am an open book with the details and or experiences in my life. It is just now as I write this paper that I see the connection between this labeling and my open communication. I am willing to share all parts of my life with others.

Society as a whole should be ethically responsible for the labels they give others.

These labels have a huge impact on one’s perception and self. I am a paraprofessional at an elementary school. As I have reflected upon my self perception created from communication from others, I am going to conscientiously give more genuine positive praise to my students. This positive praise may not turn into a label, but it is a good start in the right direction.

As an elementary math teacher, I have adapted the way I interact with my students because of the classroom setting. It is my goal that they successfully learn a new math concept each day in a fast-paced way so that they have time to complete their homework in class. Words are symbols and symbols are intentional. I am very intentional about the environment for my students each day with communication being the key to that environment. I use verbal communication to set up the expectations of my classroom, this is called coordination. On the first day of class, I teach my students constitutive rules letting them know how their behavior is interpreted. Part of these rules shows them how to enter the classroom and stack their materials in under three minutes. I have races between the columns with rewards for the fastest column. This sets them up so they are ready to learn, not spending time trying to find materials.

In my classroom, the ethical line is a boundary between high standards or standards of excellence versus low standards. I would define the ethical line to be not cheating and completing your homework each night. Unfortunately, I have caught students cheating in class. One student I approached to discuss cheating, lied to me. I was able to show the student the importance of accountability and stepping up with honesty. This opportunity to teach my student communication ethics through verbal communication, helped him realize the importance of doing his own work. The use of verbal communication can be a tool to create the environment you desire.

Listening is a learned skill. I realized that throughout my life, I have fluctuated between just hearing and listening. So to answer the question of do I believe I am an effective listener, I would have to say sometimes. In my busy life, I have found “situation distractions” to be present on a daily basis. Situational distractions include having a TV on during a conversation or scrolling through your cell phone at dinner. My family and I decided to ban cell phones and book reading at the dinner table. My children were unintentionally missing out on connecting with each other because they were reading books or on their phones at the dinner table. Although they moan to put these items away, it has helped me become a better listener. I also suffer from “failure to focus”.

Many times, my mind is preoccupied with events of the day, to do lists, etc… that it can be hard to focus. One time my daughter was telling me about her friends. I did not focus, so I did not listen. I then embarrassed myself by asking the friend something that I should have already known.

Empathic listening has played a positive role in my life. My daughter recently reversed the car into the side of the garage. My immediate reaction was to want to yell at her, however, because of the skills I learned in this communications class, I chose to listen to her with empathy. This helped me recognize her thoughts and feelings. I had the opportunity to choose to give her confidence to deal with the unpleasant situation as an adult instead of tearing her down. Empathic listening did not take away the consequences of her actions, but it did allow her the opportunity to right her wrong. This is a skill I will continue to develop in the future.

Nonverbal behaviors are my strongest classroom management tool as an elementary math teacher. As stated before, once I verbally teach my students how to stack his/her materials in under 3 minutes to prepare to be taught, I substitute the verbal directions with nonverbal cursor emblems. I have a hand action or emblem for each step of setting up. For example, my students need to have his/her pencil in the groove of the desk so that they are ready to start. When moving to nonverbal directions, I point a finger and then lay it forward in the groove. This is a nonverbal cue to my students to have their pencil ready. At the end of my nonverbal cues, I end with learning position, which is feet flat, back straight, fingers interlocked with elbows on their desk. My nonverbal action is to interlock my fingers in front of me with. These nonverbal cues allow for a fast setup so that no class time is wasted entering the classroom.

A second nonverbal classification that I excel at, is vocalics. I try to teach the new concept in math in 12 minutes, so that my students have 45 minutes of homework time, as no student loves tons of homework. To keep their attention I articulate, change my pitch, use a pause of silence with a punch, and change my volume. I believe this showcases my love of math to my students. Whenever I can come up with a gesture to help them remember a math formula, I do. Dancing along with solving the problems helps it sink into their brains. Plus, gestures are fun. If I have a student who has difficulty focusing, if I give them a small adapter to fidget with in his hands, it usually solves the focus problems. When all else fails and a student is still struggling, I use proximity. If I walk up to the student, tap his desk, or place a hand on his shoulder, it usually draws them back into my lesson. The use of proxemics helps squiggly wiggly elementary students.

I don’t believe I would be a successful teacher without the use of nonverbal clues in conjunction with verbal communication. Children under the age of ten are used to being entertained. Gestures and vocalics turn me from a regular teacher to an entertaining one. I believe this is why I receive high ratings from my students and their parents.

In summary, my abilities to communicate are influenced by my perception and self. Many of my perceptions of oneself come from communication from others. Verbal communication can be increased as we become proactive listeners. Nonverbal communication conveys deeper messages and are many times more impactful. Putting all of these pieces of the communication equation together increases our abilities to connect with those around us. Communication is a skill worth improving upon as it brings returns of one hundred-fold. Now the label of “tall girl,” makes me stand up tall with pride in my height giving me a perspective of the world around me.

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