Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nonverbal Cues

at 8:31 AM
One of the things I really love about my district is that they send us to trainings and believe in professional development. I am one of those weird people who actually enjoy learning. Crazy, right? I love learning new things, and I enjoy finding out the why's and how's of things that work.

Saturday morning I went to a PD seminar in the district office called How to Spend More Time Teaching and Less Time Managing. This was really good because I spend way too much of my time managing, and I thought it was just a middle school issue. It also relates to my BTSA inquiry question.

The session was taught by Kendall Zoller, co-author of The Choreography of Presenting: The 7 Essential Abilities of Effective Presenters. Zoller has taught middle-college ages, done scientific and brain research at multiple universities, and now goes around presenting seminars to people in all fields about how to present.

At the seminar we received a copy of his book, which he says encompasses 65 patters we do as humans to influence people. In the seminar he said we'd cover about a dozen.

To start with, his 7 Essential Abilities are:

  • Essential Ability 1: Establish Credibility 
  • Essential Ability 2: Build and Sustain Rapport
  • Essential Ability 3: Read the Group
  • Essential Ability 4: Balance Task, Process, and Group Development
  • Essential Ability 5: Listen to and Acknowledge Participation
  • Essential Ability 6: Respond Appropriately 
  • Essential Ability 7: Recover with Grace
Now, like I said, he didn't go into depth about all of these 7 abilities. We did read and paraphrase the synopsis of each ability to our partner at the get-go, and they're pretty basic ideas that we learned in credential program.

What we focused mostly on was managing non-verbally.

Managing non-verbally is:

       - quicker
       - more private
       - preserves self-esteem of student
       - allows time for more content
       - teachers end the day with more energy

 He spent time talking about multiple behavioral patterns we do every day, without realizing it, that have influence over the way people think about us. Your posture, your hand gestures, the movements of your chin as you speak, eye contact, and voice all influence people to behave in different ways. Apparently, years ago, it was thought that gestures and postures represented different things in different cultures. He cited a study (I didn't catch the name of the researcher) who proved that gestures and postures elicit the same emotions universally.

This made me think of the TV series Lie To Me where they use facial expressions in their private investigator business to catch lies. I assumed the logic behind the show was fiction, but it appears not.

There are 6 universal emotions, that every culture recognizes. Zoller showed the presentation six images of facial expressions and asked us to name them. It was hard to be wrong.

Those six emotions are:
  •     Surprise
  •     Happy
  •     Anger
  •     Fear
  •     Disgust
  •     Sadness
Zoller explained that it was important for teacher to be able to recognize these expressions before they become extreme. The bottom four expressions can get in the way of learning. Literally, the part of the brain that processes learning does not receive enough blood during those emotions. 

Zoller gave many strategies to nip those emotions in the bud, especially anger. 

He said that he never manages overtly, and then qualified that by saying he hated "never" statements. However, he did insist that when you manage a student overtly, it can trigger anger, which turns off learning. He said not to make eye contact when managing a student, out loud or non-verbally. 

If a group is off task, he said, continue teaching to those who are on task but interrupt yourself to get back the attention of the off-task group. 
When you interru-- When you interrupt yourself, the people listening will start paying more attention, without realizing what you did (unless you look for it, after it's pointed out to you, like in the seminar). 
Zoller said that the brain hears a pattern shift -- as humans we're designed to hear pattern shifts and start paying attention as a defense mechanism. When the brain hears a pattern shift (the interruption) you look to see what's going on, and start paying attention again. 
After you've interrupted yourself, continue looking at and teaching to the students who were paying attention the whole time, and put your arm out (the one closest to the group who was off-task) parallel to the floor, palm up, with your hand cupped. This is one of those gestures that fosters rapport and invites the students back into the group, without once calling them out on being off task. 

Did you know? They did a study with five countries, including America. Every other country started teaching content within 60 of class starting. The study defined class starting as when the teacher started talking to the students. They defined teaching content as when the students started working with content (no announcements, etc). In America, the average was 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Multiply that by the 180 days we teach in California. That's a lot of time wasted. And how much more time is wasted when you stop teaching to turn and chew out a student? 

Nonverbal cues cut out that time wasted by managing. 

I'm excited to start implementing these in my classroom. As my coworker pointed out, these are easy addendum to the  classroom, without changing who you are as a teacher, your procedures, or getting in the way of content. We all do them, it's just about using them effectively. 

But for now... Spring Break!


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