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Communication basics – Teacher mentoring student

Effective communication between teachers and students means more than just talking to each other. It involves constant development of trusting relationships and special conversation and listening skills, giving appropriate constructive feedback, being aware of our own nonverbal language. It is also based on well-established role and relationship boundaries.

1.Basics for developing trusting relationships:

1.1. Acceptance: the good teacher is accepting the student

As Carl Rogers pointed out empathy means accepting another person without making judgments. It means setting aside - at least temporarily - personal beliefs and values. Accepting teachers do not judge or reject students. Rather, empathic teachers simply view traits of students as challenges to help or overcome in their efforts to deliver meaningful support.

1.2. Model role: The accepting teacher is a model of a continuous learner and is transparent about his/her own search for better answers and more effective solutions to his/her own problems. They model this commitment by their openness to learn from colleagues and others.

1.3. Effective interpersonal contexts skills: mentoring teachers recognize that each relationship occurs in a unique, interpersonal context and adjust their teaching to meet the needs of students.  These teachers also adjust their mentoring communications to meet the needs of individual students. For that reason they must possess deep understanding of their own communication styles and a willingness to objectively observe the behaviour of the mentee.

1.4. To be committed to the role of mentoring Committed mentors understand the importance of persistence in mentoring and that this requires significant time and energy investments.

1.5. Positive attitude toward students

The mentor type teacher communicates hope and optimism and is dedicated to working in a trusting relationship with a partner to continually improve his or her skills.  

2. Constructive Feedback includes providing your partner with descriptive, specific information that is focused on changing behaviours.

2.1. Focus on describing observable behaviour without judgment, accusations, or generalizations on those behaviours.

2.2.  Give timely feedback.

2.3. Paraphrase when it is needed to clarify. The following statements are good paraphrasing sentence starters:  "What I hear you saying is...",  "Tell me what you mean when you...", "Do I understand correctly that you mean...?"

3. Listening skills: listening means hearing and understanding what you are being told. It does NOT mean giving advice, adding detail or even sharing your own experiences.

4. Being aware of our non-verbal language.  It is advisable to

  • turn your body facing the speaker,
  • make eye contact,
  • interact with the speaker by echoing their words or nodding/shaking our head,
  • ask appropriate questions to help clarify or expand on their thoughts

5. Conversation skills:

5.1. Open-Ended Questions - try using questions that begin with "how" or "what" to open up your conversations such as: • How did you feel …?• What do you think would happen if...? • What might you see happening if...? -

5.2. Possibility of Using Coaching methods It’s recommended to use Cognitive Coaching. It is a specific coaching tool that focuses on the cognitive process of others in 3 steps cycle (See: Equipment)

6. The main concerns in communication between students and teachers in rules:

6.1. Planned social interaction out of school is not appropriate.

6.2. Modes of communication (such as telephone, e-mail, facebook) with the student must be discussed with and approved by the teacher’s supervisor, as well as the student and his/her parent.

6.3. Under no circumstances should any mode of communication be accepted from others (other students, adults) including inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature, obscene language or gestures or personal correspondence in respect of the student’s feelings (including sexual feelings). If it happens it should be discouraged, and not responded.

6.4. Time to time it needs reminding the student about the roles and relationship boundaries of the mentoring session with the teacher.

6.5. Again it is important to develop communication that keeps professional boundaries clear and that cannot be misinterpreted as personal.

6.6. Clear aims and outcomes are required for each session. Insufficient attention to these aims and outcomes may be a sign that the teacher is becoming too involved with the student and intervention by the supervisor is required.

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