As teachers, it’s part of our job to be effective communicators: to speak in a way that engages and inspires our audience.
But while many of us have honed our craft as public speakers, we pay little attention to our communication habits when we’re not performing for the troops. And this can be very dangerous if you want to retain the support of your colleagues.
According to communication expert Julian Treasure, when it comes to speaking, the following Seven Deadly Sins are things you should definitely avoid..
As seductive as it can be to indulge in idle rumours in the staffroom, bear in mind that when you speak ill of others behind their back, those listening will instinctively feel cautious around you. Essentially, they’ll lose trust in you, wondering what you say about them once their back is turned. If you live for the drama and therefore quitting cold-turkey just isn’t realistic, then at least reserve your tawdry tales for those in your closest circle.
2. Judging and condemning
While professionally we preach the values of empathy, kindness, understanding and open-mindedness to our students, as a community, we’re not above making thoughtless and unkind judgements of others. If you’re always the person found rolling their eyes at the guest speaker on Inset and belittling the actions of newly appointed colleagues, you’re probably more drain than radiator to be around.
Having admitted previously to being a Dementor, I have first-hand experience of pushing people away myself with an endless stream of negativity. Being around people who always see the worst in every situation, who only look for problems and never solutions, is ultimately a frustrating, unpleasant experience.
Let me get this straight – being able to speak your mind, including voicing complaints, criticism, concerns and disagreement, is a key part of the modern teachers’ survival kit. Moreover, it’s actually useful. Just ensure that you know the difference between this and simply moaning on for the sake of it, spreading viral misery and ingratitude to anyone who will listen. Chances are… they won’t listen for long.
5. Making excuses
When children don’t take responsibility for their behaviour, it’s irritating. When adults don’t, it’s damn right icky. Listening to adults deny responsibility, pass the blame or claim ignorance is a frustrating experience. Making mistakes doesn’t put people off, but pretending you didn’t does.
Interested in being lied to? No – me neither. Don’t kid yourself that people don’t notice your extra fictitious details or omissions – i.e., the difference between "the best lesson your mentor had ever seen" or "the best lesson they had seen today". If they haven’t already, those around you will eventually tire of your "fake news" and opt to chat with someone more genuine and trustworthy.
There’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions, but beware of being dogmatic in your conversations with others. Laying down opinions as if they are facts, without any thought of conflicting opinions or evidence, creates an oppressive atmosphere for those around you.
Jo Steer is a teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions and wellbeing strategies