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Watch Your Language!

Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code/Book Excerpt

Carmen Y. Reyes The Psycho-Educational Teacher

License Notes This book is intended for professional enrichment. You may reproduce this book only for classroom management purposes. Duplicating this book for commercial use is not allowed. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Copyright 2013 by Carmen Y. Reyes SolidRock Press Brooklyn, New York

A Very Special Dedication


I dedicate this book to you, beautiful teacher. We are probably in opposite corners of the world, but I feel that I know you personally. I share your dreams of creating a better world, one child at a time. I know of your disappointment and self-doubts when things did not go as they were envisioned. I know that you never quit, no matter how hard things seem to be. Most importantly, I know that each day that you spend in the classroom is as much a learning experience for you as it is for your students. My hope is that this humble book inspires and motivates you the same way that you inspired and motivated me all my life.

Table of Contents
Introduction Redefining Discipline Developing an Action Plan Part I: The Basics Chapter One: What is Interpersonal Communication? Interpersonal Communication Channels Interpersonal Communication Styles Types of Communication Interpersonal Communication in Context Overview

Chapter Two: Interpersonal Communication in the Classroom: Theories and Principles The Systems Perspective The Coordinated Management of Meaning Theory (CMM) The Symbolic Interaction Theory The Politeness Theory Principles Overview

Chapter Three: Interpersonal Communication in the Classroom: Components and Skills The Receptive Side of Communication: Listening Why We Should Listen to Children Listening Types Bad Listening Behaviors Listening Skills The Expressive Side of Communication: Speaking Speaking Skills Overview

Part II: Interpersonal Communication is Everything And Everywhere! Chapter Four: A Therapeutic Framework of Interpersonal Communication Assertive Assertive Language Starts with the Teacher Optimistic Motivational Important Motivational Constructs o Locus of Control o Attribution Style o Not All Effort is the Right Effort Rational Cognitive Distortions Goal-Oriented Guidelines for Setting Goals Changing Behavior is the Journey- Goal-Oriented Questions to Plan My Route Choice Making Problem Solving Solution-Oriented Overview Chapter Five: On Becoming an Effective Communicator Our Intention Determines the Meaning of the Communication The Meaning of the Communication is in the Response We Get Connect Before You Direct- The Essence of Effective Communication The First Column- Rapport The Second Column- Empathy A Brief Note About Time Overview Chapter Six: The Nonverbal Aspect of Interpersonal Communication Types of Nonverbal Communication Uses of Nonverbal Communication Putting Our Interpretations in Context Clusters of Nonverbal Behavior Teachers Supportive Body Language- Showing Kids that We Care Aligning Our Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Overview Chapter Seven: What We Expect is What We Get: The Influential Effect of Teachers Expectations in Shaping Classroom Behavior Guidelines for Communicating High Expectations to Children Overview Part III: Speech Acts Chapter Eight: The Speech Act- Parts and Uses Parts of Speech Sentences Special Linguistic Terms Manipulating the Parts of Speech to Modify Meaning Overview Chapter Nine: Disciplinary Speech Acts Short-Term Disciplinary Speech Acts Long-Term Disciplinary Speech Acts Kinds of Long-Term Disciplinary Speech Acts o Feedback o Constructive Criticism Kinds of Criticism Guidelines for Criticizing Children o Praise Guidelines for Praising Children o Encouragement o Requests or Commands? When Refusing Is Not an Option: Mastering the Command Guidelines for Giving Alpha Commands o Correcting Behavior Guidelines for Correcting Behavior Overview Chapter Ten: Enhanced Disciplinary Language The Persuasive Speech Act Giving Suggestions to Children Changing Young Hearts and Minds with the Persuasive Message o Techniques for Changing Young Hearts and Minds

The Persuasive Power of Images- Guided Imagery and Visualizations Why the Question? How to Ask Questions that Change Behavior Questions to Help the Child Select Goals Questions to Help the Child Identify Resources Questions to Help the Child Initiate Action Questions to Help the Child Stay in Course Questions to Help the Child Correct Course Questions to Help the Child Measure Progress Questions to Help the Child Cope with Failure Some Special Questions Mastering Therapeutic Language: How to Turn Negative Behavior into Positive Problem Solving Enhanced Interventions to Create Rapport with a Difficult Student o The Synchronization Technique o Alternative Approaches to Create Rapport o More Techniques Child Guidance Speech Acts Interpreting Reflecting Reframing Decoding Challenging Confronting Child Guidance Guidelines From Analysis to Change: Helping Children in Planning Responsible Behavior Overview Appendix Appendix A: Visualization Exercise for Children- Enhancing Your Senses Appendix A- Analysis and Techniques

o List of Techniques Appendix B: Visualization Exercise for Children- Test Taking Appendix B- Analysis and Techniques o List of Techniques Bibliography List of Tables Table 5.1. Bads and Betters of Effective Communication Table 9.1. Examples of the Three Kinds of Feedback About the Author CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR ONLINE DISCOVER OTHER TITLES BY THIS AUTHOR

Introduction
Much literature is available relating teachers language (the words we use and the messages we send) with students behaviors. Commonly, these are books within the neuro-linguistic programming model or NLP. For example, Nitsche (2006) discusses neuro-linguistic techniques, focusing in nonverbal classroom management; Mahony (2003) focuses in NLP language patterns such as metamodel or questioning and metaphoric or storytelling. Outside the neuro-linguistic tradition, the nonviolent communication model, developed by Rosenberg (2003), is an example of a specific way of talking that aims at improving the classroom environment by creating a partnership relationship between teacher and students. As Hart and Kindle Hodson (2004) stated, in this relationship based classroom, safety, trust, student needs, teacher needs, and modes of communication are considerations as important as history, language arts, science, or other academic subjects (p. 15). These language and communication approaches are rooted in the belief that teachers ways of talking play a crucial role in influencing childrens behavior; our students behaviors strongly reflect both the words we use and how we say those words to them. In simpler terms, positive and optimistic messages that communicate high expectations influence positive behavior, and negative and pessimistic messages with low expectations influence negative behavior. The nonviolent communication model emphasizes the importance of quality teacherstudent interactions in improving the classroom environment. From the broader interpersonal communication point of view, better teachers language coupled with quality teacher-students interactions actually improves childrens behavior. Based on this fundamental belief, to break a cycle of poor classroom interactions (e.g. negative teacher-to-students interactions, hostile student-to-student interactions, disruptiveness, and noncompliance), we need to change the messages we send to students. In summary, our ways of talking influence the way we interact with children, and the way we interact with children influences their behavior. Therefore, to speak and relate with children in a way that promotes

positive classroom behavior, teachers need better interpersonal communication skills. Watch Your Language! Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code is a book about how to discipline children using behaviorinfluence language. Within the interpersonal communication context, classroom discipline is not just about finding and using the right techniques; classroom discipline is about building positive and collaborative teacher-students interactions and relationships. We start building better classroom relationships when we communicate to our students from the beginning that we will do everything we need to do to enjoy being with them and teaching them. This leads us to a new definition of classroom discipline, a definition that is both interactions-based and communication-based.

Redefining Discipline
Every teacher faces daily challenges in trying to teach children better ways of behaving. A few have little difficulty in disciplining children, some get inconsistent results (i.e. positive behavior some of the time but not all of the time and/or positive behavior from some students but not from all students), and for others, keeping the class engaged in the lessons, focused, and well-motivated feels difficult to accomplish. If we want to move up from one of the last two groups to the first group of teachers, a good starting point is to understand what discipline means to us, because it is from this definition of discipline that both our behavior management system and discipline style develop. For instance, for several years, I equated the term discipline with reacting to my students negative and disruptive behaviors. For example, I felt compelled to reprimand the two children that were holding a private conversation in the back of the room, or to say something to the child that was pushing others in the line. It took me years of mistakes and frustration before I realized that discipline is less about reacting to the negatives, and more about what I can do to elicit positive behaviors from my students. When we define discipline as reacting to the negatives, we put children in charge; they are the ones in the offensive, and the teacher is usually

on the defensive, a well-known recipe for feelings of insecurity and self-doubt (e.g. Do I have what it takes to do this job?). However, by envisioning discipline as everything we put into children that influences how they behave, we shift from the passive role of simply reacting to childrens behaviors as it is, to a much more active and focused role of doing everything we can do to encourage and guide positive behavior. That is, we evolve from demanding childrens compliance to classroom rules to a child guidance system that encourages and coaches children in change and in personal growth. Or, as Nitsche (2006) says, we transition from the sphere of domination and power to the sphere of influence, a very muchneeded step in becoming an effective behavior manager.

Developing an Action Plan


Once we complete the step of redefining discipline, the second step is to develop an action plan. This is a question-and-answer process where we explore the answers to six basic questions: 1. How do I want my class to turn out? Alternatively, what is my goal for this class? 2. What my class will need from me to become the class I want them/expect them to be? Alternatively, how can I encourage my class to become the class I want them/expect them to be? 3. What interpersonal skills my class needs to learn? 4. How can we (teacher with class) do it? 5. What resources do I have? a. internal resources b. external resources 6. What resources does my class have? a. personal strengths b. current interpersonal skills Alternatively, for a specific child, we ask:

1. How do I want this child to turn out? Alternatively, what is my goal for this child? 2. What this child will need from me to become everything positive that this child can be? Alternatively, how can I encourage this child to become everything positive that this child can be? 3. What interpersonal skills this child needs to learn? 4. How can we (teacher with child) do it? 5. What resources do I have? a. internal resources b. external resources 6. What resources does this child have? a. personal strengths b. current interpersonal skills In question one, we state our main goal. The second question expands our role (our own behavior) to both an active and a motivational role. With the third question, we identify our objectives, or the specific interpersonal skills that we are going to teach. The planning process (how to) starts with the fourth question; this is where we identify the order of steps or a procedure. Questions five and six are all about resources available and personal strengths, both the teachers personal strengths (question five) and childrens personal strengths (sixth question). To be effective in encouraging and motivating children for better behavior, we need to make them aware that they already have the personal resources they need to self-regulate behavior; our main role is to help children notice and strengthen those resources. In the process of behavior change, the teacher, like a sports coach, guides the child or class in how to use those precious personal resources to develop the behavioral self-control needed to become successful, not only in school, but also in life. Discipline then, should never be about shortterm solutions using 5-minute techniques. Discipline needs to be our long-term goal, where we help children develop the self-direction they need to be in control

of their present and future behavior using constructive rules and high standards that they have internalized.

PART I THE BASICS

Chapter One What is Interpersonal Communication?


Interpersonal communication is the process of sharing thoughts, feelings, and information with one another. The two elements in interpersonal communication are message sending and message reception. The process of interpersonal communication begins at the thoughts and/or feelings level, that is, an individual (the sender) gets a thought or a feeling, converts this thought or feeling into a message, and then sends the message using a communication channel ( oral, written, or visual). The person receiving the message (the receiver) responds to it and sends a response back via the same or using a different communication channel. Interpersonal communication is more than a superficial exchange of hellos. The process of interpersonal communication refers to both the content and the quality of messages, and how we can develop and/or strengthen relationships from these messages. Interpersonal communication can take place with and without words; for example, even when the receiver responds with silence and/or withdrawing, his or her body language gives information to the sender. Similarly, a single gesture can communicate a particular thought or a feeling. Like all skills, with knowledge, practice, and feedback, we can learn and/or improve our interpersonal communication skills.

Interpersonal Communication Channels


In interpersonal communication, the three main channels of communication are: 1. The oral channel, which refers to the spoken words in the communication process. For example, speaking face-to-face interactions or on the phone. 2. The written channel, for example, letters, emails, or texting.

3. The visual channel, for example, body language, sign language, and pictures. Based on the channel used, we can classify the process of communication into verbal communication and nonverbal communication. To communicate verbally (with words), we can use the oral and/or written channel. In nonverbal communication, we use body language (i.e. facial expression, body posture, and body movements), gestures, and pictorial representations such as pictures, paintings, signboards, sketches, and diagrams.

Interpersonal Communication Styles


Bateman and Zeithaml (As cited on Sethi and Seth, 2009) originally introduced the following styles of interpersonal communication: The controlling style. In a controlling style of interpersonal communication, the person sending the message leaves little or no room for the person receiving the message to respond to the message and/or to give feedback. This is the my way or no way style. The controlling style is common in senior-to-subordinate interactions, and, mostly intended to intimidate the receiver, creates a communication gap or inequality between the two parts. The structuring style. In the structuring style, the purpose of the communication is to coordinate and organize ideas, and to communicate specific goals. Most classroom lessons and lectures follow this style. If we are not careful, the structuring style can turn into a one-way conversation with no feedback from the audience (students). The egalitarian style. In the egalitarian style, the participants share the information mutually. In this style of communication, all participants are encouraged to express their ideas, creating a cooperative atmosphere. The dynamic style. In the dynamic style, we use motivating words and phrases to encourage the receiver to get inspired and to achieve specific goals. Although this is the communication style that we use to motivate and engage children in changing behavior, students are not going to be able to change their behavior if they lack the skills required, or if they do not have

enough knowledge and information about the actions that we are requiring from them. In other words, to change behavior, motivation alone is not going to do the trick, only motivation with skills change behavior. The relinquishing style. In this style, we may be so open to the ideas of the other person, that we transfer the responsibility for the conversation to the other person. This style of communication works best when both sender and receiver are equally interested in the conversation, share common goals, and have equivalent skills. The withdrawal style. We can describe this style as a failure in communicating, or a lack of communication. In this style, at least one of the participants shows total disinterest in participating in the conversation, or in carrying the conversation forward.

Types of Communication
Depending on style and intention (purpose), communication can be formal or informal. The official communication that takes place in the business world (i.e. conferences, meetings, and memos) is one example of formal communication; a second example is an interchange taking place between two strangers interacting for the first time. Formal communication is more precise and rigid than informal communication. On the other hand, informal communication includes those instances where the communication between people is more free and unrestrained, with no limiting rules or guidelines, for example, friends or family members. In informal communication, there are no boundaries of time, place, or even topics. To summarize, formal communication is confined mainly to the workplace; informal communication is part of our personal lives.

Interpersonal Communication in Context


No communication happens in a vacuum; there are always conditions preceding the message, and conditions surrounding the message. These conditions, or context, can be in the form of present or past events, including

personal history; that is, how each individual is, and what each individual brings to the communication. In addition, the context can be: The physical environment, that is, factors external to the participants (physical space), including things like the size of the room, furniture, noise level, and temperature. The social environment, for example, teachers, other students, friends, and family. The participants psychological or emotional state. The participants interactions or individual reactions. The setting (place and time), for example, classroom, lunchroom, principals office, schoolyard, and time of day. The psychological setting or scene, including characteristics such as range of formality and sense of play or seriousness. The cultural environment or learned behaviors and social rules. The situation, that is, the participants cognitive or mental representations (thoughts) of the environment, or how they perceive the environment. Our particular day-to-day verbal exchanges with our students take place in a verbal context, which are the sentences and body attitude (body language) before and after the message and the way we deliver that message (e.g. our tone of voice). All these conditions in interaction are instrumental in giving meaning to a message; in other words, context influences the way that children understand and interpret our messages.

Overview
1. Interpersonal communication is the process of sharing thoughts, feelings, and information with one another. At the core of this process are the two elements of message sending and message reception; however, interpersonal communication goes beyond a superficial exchange of hellos, referring to both the content and the quality of the message, and how we can develop and/or strengthen relationships from the messages we share. 2. Interpersonal communication can take place with or without words. Even silence and withdrawing body language have meaning, and they communicate that meaning. 3. There are six interpersonal communication styles: controlling, structuring, egalitarian, dynamic, relinquishing, and withdrawal. The controlling style is an unequal interaction where the speaker does not allow the listener to respond to the message or to give feedback. Common in the school setting is the dynamic style, or motivating words and phrases that teachers use to inspire children and to help them achieve their academic goals. 4. No communication happens in a vacuum. There are always conditions preceding the message and conditions surrounding the message. These conditions or context can be in the form of present or past events, including each individuals personal history; that is, how each participant is and what each participant brings to the interaction. Context influences the way the participants understand and interpret the message. 5. Like all skills, with knowledge, practice, and feedback teachers, as well as their students, can develop and/or improve their interpersonal communication competence.

Chapter Two Interpersonal Communication in the Classroom: Theories and Principles


In the broader context, interpersonal communication theories explain how personal and/or social relationships start, develop, and end. Some interpersonal communication theories elaborate on how people maintain a social or a personal relationship over time, while other theories focus on why some individuals relate to others the way they do, and what to do when handling an individual that is interacting (behaving) in unexpected ways. The consensus among these theories is that we define, initiate, maintain, deepen, or even terminate a relationship based on the quality of our communication. Simply put, the way we communicate with others has a role in influencing our social interactions, relationships, and behavior. In applying this broader principle to the school setting, we explore four interpersonal communication theories that help us put in perspective how teachers can use interpersonal communication, or the day-to-day exchange of messages taking place in the classroom to build positive and constructive teacherto-students interactions and relationships.

The Systems Perspective


The systems perspective analyzes the kinds of communication taking place on groups of interacting individuals, from a small group to organizations. The systems perspective is not just one theory, but a group of theories sharing a common interactional view of relationships maintenance, in particular, the interdependence that develops whenever two or more individuals interact. The system is any group of individuals interrelating to form a whole, for example, the family, a sports team, co-workers, or the classroom. Any time that a particular group of people has repeated interactions with each other, that group represents a system. Systems are part of a hierarchy, with smaller systems existing within

bigger systems, and parallel systems co-existing. The subsystem is a smaller part of the group as a whole, for example, the students in PS 164. The suprasystem is the larger system, in our example, students with staff. Due to its hierarchical nature, PS 164 is a smaller system (subsystem) of District 12, and students in PS 164 are a suprasystem of class 508. In addition, classes 501, 502, 503, and so on, are equivalent systems of class 508. From systems theory we get the nonsummativity principle, that is, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. From a systems perspective, single members in and on themselves do not make or break the system; only the system as a whole and working together is able to create what individual members working in isolation will never be able to accomplish. The belief that systems have the ability to achieve more through group effort than through individual effort is what we know in system theory as positive synergy. Using systemic language, when all students in class 508 achieve, including students with disabilities, the class has positive synergy. On the other hand, if the group or system achieves less than its individual members, that is, some students achieving, but not all students, then class 508 is on negative synergy. General systems theorists also believe in the interdependence principle, that is, each member of the group depending on every other member of the group. Based on the interdependence principle, if one member in the group drops the ball (stops working toward the groups goal), the group as a whole is unlikely to achieve its goals. Another important principle in systems theory is the principle of homeostasis, a biological self-regulation concept introduced by W. R. Ashby in the 1960s. Homeostasis references the natural balance or equilibrium within groups. All groups have the tendency to maintain stability in the face of change, and this homeostasis or stability can be positive (functional) or negative (dysfunctional). According to the homeostasis principle, a system free of conflict (e.g. class 508) is likely to continue to be free of conflict, but a classroom with great deal of conflict (e.g. class 502) is likely to remain in conflict. The homeostasis principle states that, in class 502, any effort to reduce conflict will probably create more conflict, because conflict is the natural balance (homeostasis) for class 502. From vonBertalanffy, an Austrianborn biologist known as one of the founders of general systems theory, we get

the important principle of equifinality, or the idea that the system or group has multiple ways of achieving the same goal. In other words, to achieve a particular goal, the group can take different paths. In addition, when the group focuses and establishes priorities, it can work on multiple goals simultaneously. In summary, systems perspective theories try to explain the patterns of communication that groups like classes 508 and 502 develop to sustain homeostasis and to achieve groups goals. Today, general systems concepts that explain the properties of systems are central in organizational management theory and in cybernetics theory (Littlejohn, 2011).

The Coordinated Management of Meaning Theory (CMM)


Coordinated management of meaning, a collection of ideas put together to try to explain how people interact during the communication process, became popular in the 1980s. The main premise in this theory is that communication is about meanings, not only in the passive way of perceiving a message, but in the active way of creating the meaning of the message. Creating the meaning of the communication is not something that one participant does in isolation; all participants are creating meaning simultaneously and in coordination with all the other participants in the interaction. Expanding authors Pearce and Cronen original definition, effective communication is a two-sided process of (1) coordinating actions with one another and (2) making and managing meanings together (See Griffin, 2011). According to this theory, creating meaning is a mutual responsibility; both sender and receiver create the meaning of the interaction, and should share equal responsibility in doing so. In addition, depending on the specific situation and context, the meaning we create and/or understand can change, which is the principle of having multiple truths. When there are arguments and/or disagreements between sender and receiver (e.g. between a teacher and a specific student) is mainly because they are not sharing one same meaning, and, with different meanings in conflict, the intended message loses clarity, coordination, and coherence. To be able to communicate more effectively, so that we get a better outcome, we need to know how we can create a new and shared meaning while we are exchanging our individual ideas.

CMM theory emphasizes the importance of experiences, beliefs, and values in deciding which meaning and interpretation are most important in the stories we tell; that is, our experiences, beliefs, and values have a crucial role in how our interactions will play out ultimately. The coordinated management of meaning theory relies in three key concepts: 1. Coherence. In this process, both the constitutive rules (rules of meaning) and our expectations for the communication help explain how the message gets its meaning. Our internalized rules and expectations help us make sense of what is happening in the interaction. Each story we tell holds a different interpretation depending on six main factors: A. Content, that is, the information that we exchange (speak) during the interaction. In creating meaning, content alone is not enough; our tone of voice and body language are often more informative than what we say. B. Episode or situation, that is, the specific rules and routines for each interaction (the specific things we do). The same words (the things we say or the content) can take a different meaning when the situation is different, for example, the phrase, You are so funny! has one meaning when we are sharing jokes with friends and a different meaning when we say it to the classrooms joker that just interrupted our lesson for the third time. C. Speech acts or the kinds of language we use. For example, requests, commands, statements, questions, criticism, compliments, reprimands, threats, or promises. D. Relationships between the individuals in the interaction, more specifically, the dynamics of what connects the participants. For example, two participants that like each other (in rapport), two participants indifferent to each other (neutral rapport), or two participants hostile to each other (without rapport). The stories we tell to people we like and trust (in rapport) are different from those stories we tell to individuals we do not like and/or do not trust.

Similarly, the same story told in rapport may change meaning when there is no rapport between the participants. E. Self-concept, which relates to how each participant perceives himself or herself. The coordinated management of meaning theory states that we create our self-concept through those stories about us we are constantly telling others; personal stories that, in turn, give us guidelines or scripts for our behavior. By evolving into behavior scripts or behavior patterns, our personal stories influence our behavior. This takes us to a premise common to most theories in interpersonal communication: self-concept influences behavior. For instance, because our classrooms joker perceives himself as a funny guy, he makes jokes and acts funny; the way our classrooms joker behaves explicitly telling the personal story of who he believes he is or his self-concept. Particularly relevant to the coordinated management of meaning theory is that self-concept changes and develops through different personal stories (e.g. Im funny, Im stubborn, I have a potty mouth, and Im good with numbers) and, by telling and retelling (acting) these personal stories; for example, by being funny and using foul language, children like our classrooms joker shape their self into a self-picture or a self-image of what they believe to be true. Also relevant to this theory is that a childs self-concept or self-image is strongly influenced by those specific stories he or she hears from significant others such as teachers, parents, and peers (e.g. You are a funny guy! Why are you so stubborn? or You have such a potty mouth!). There is a strong therapeutic value in explaining behavior as an open and modifiable script to our habitually disruptive students, helping children review old behavior scripts or blueprints so that they can rewrite a new and improved script that is open to new possibilities or new behaviors. When we have to deal with children with recurrent behavior problems, a therapeutic intervention would be to help them understand that a behavior script is never completely and

permanently written (closed script), quite the contrary, childrens behavior scripts are changing and evolving throughout their lifetime (open script), and children can always write a much better story for themselves. F. Culture, that is, the set of rules for acting and speaking that determines what we define as normal in a given episode or a given situation. There are different rules of interaction depending on each participants culture. 2. Coordination. The words we say and the things we do during our interactions come together to produce patterns, or the stories we live. Each individual has a specific set of rules that shapes his or her behavior. We all operate from our own set of rules, but we can coordinate our personal or specific rules to coincide with the specific rules of others. Regulative rules guide our actions (how we respond and behave), and aid in coordination. The process of coordination refers specifically to the fact that, although we all have different beliefs, values, ideas, etc., that does not mean that we cannot reach consensus, and an outcome that benefits us all. We can even create new rules of meaning (constitutive rules) or action (regulative rules) to facilitate a successful coordination. Coordination requires perspective taking, or being sensitive and mindful of the other side of the story. Finally, it is important that we keep in mind that different rules produce different patterns of communication and different outcomes; therefore, if we want to get better results, we need to apply different rules. 3. Mystery. We cannot explain everything that happens in the communicative exchange. This is the concept of mystery, or stories unexpressed. Our human experience is more than any individual story told or lived. Mystery has to do with the sense of awe or wonder that we experience when the communication leads to an unexpected outcome. Together, the processes of coherence, coordination, and mystery create the basis for our social interactions. Coherence gives context to the stories we tell, coordination comes through the stories we live, and mystery is the sense of wonder for stories unexpressed. Wrapping up, CMM theory sees human interactions as

a complex series of interconnected events in which each participant is at the same time influencing and being influenced by the other participants. Advocates of this theory believe that the best way of improving the outcomes of our social interactions is by improving the patterns of communication that produce these outcomes.

The Symbolic Interaction Theory


We live in a symbolic world as well as in a physical world; symbols (i.e. words, gestures, and social roles) give meaning and define our world. We share our symbols through human interaction; therefore, interactions give us meaning. Developed by Herbert Blumer (See Griffin, 2011), this school of thought holds the principle of meaning as central in understanding human behavior. The three core principles of this theory are: 1. Meaning, that is, the purpose or significance attributed to people and things. Meaning is neither inherent in objects nor fixed; each time we interact with other people or the environment, we create and/or modify meaning. In other words, meaning evolves from interactions. 2. Language. Language, a set of shared meanings, is the way by which we negotiate meaning through symbols. 3. Thought. Thought modifies each individuals interpretation of symbols. Based on language, thought is a mental conversation or dialogue that requires role taking, or perspective taking; that is, the ability to imagine different points of view. In summary, through symbolic interactions, we interpret and give meaning to our world. At the same time, we act toward people and events based on the symbolic meanings (existing symbols) already attached to those people or events. That is, our internalized symbols filter our perception of the event and shape our behavior. For instance, think about the kind of teacher-student relationship that can develop from symbolic meanings such as:

The teacher defines the child as slow, noncompliant, pain in the butt, and obnoxious. The child defines the teacher as unfair, boring, yells too much, and has a bad hair day every day. Because both teacher and childs behaviors are in response of their preexisting meanings; and remember, children are defining us too, we can anticipate conflict between teacher and student. In agreement with the previous school of thought (CMM), advocates of symbolic interaction theory propose that children develop their concept of self, or self-concept, through the processes of interacting and communicating with significant others (i.e. parents, caretakers, teachers, and peers), most specifically, the way significant others react to their behaviors and how children perceive and interpret those reactions. Simply put, through interactions with significant others children are learning about themselves. Selfconcept, once is developed, provides an important motive for the childs behavior. Again and again, we witness how different but related theories in interpersonal communication embrace the same belief that self-concept influences behavior. In addition, once the teacher defines the student as slow and noncompliant, these preconceptions and labels become reality for the child. The teachers symbolic meanings almost invariably elicit in the child the same behaviors that the teacher wants to extinguish in the first place. The two familiar notions of teachers expectations (teachers expectations influence students performance, perceptions, and attitudes) and self-fulfilling prophesy (the tendency for our expectations to evoke responses in children that confirm what we originally anticipated) are rooted in principles of symbolic interactions. Finally, because teachers are managers of behavior, it is important that we understand human behavior. According to the symbolic interaction theory, individuals have different meanings for the same symbols (i.e. for one same event or situation). Our experiences and memories are linked to our internalized symbols, and the same symbol that evokes a positive reaction and pleasant memory in one person can evoke a negative reaction and painful memory in a second individual. For example, the 25th of April may signify the birth of her firstborn for one individual while evoking painful memories of a car accident in a

second individual. Different meanings for the same symbol easily lead to communication problems or miscommunication. When a clear understanding of the situation is lost due to different definitions, perceptions, interpretations, and/or opinions of the same symbol or event, we start relying on assumptions and pre-conceptions, putting more emphasis in defending our individual opinions or pre-conceptions than in reaching consensus and agreement. Teachers understanding of childrens behavior, that is, why children behave the way they do, improves when the teacher is aware of the meaning of the symbol (behavior or event) for the child. When the teacher and the student have a mutual understanding of the meaning of the symbol, they can communicate and interact more effectively. Applying this notion to managing disruptive classroom behavior, the goal of our interactions with the disruptive child is to create a shared meaning. For instance, first, teacher and joker share their individual interpretation of the symbol (the definition of the event, for example, the child perceives and defines the situation as funny but the teacher perceives and defines the situation as annoying). Secondly, teacher and student reach an agreement that works for both of them. For example, the teacher allows the student to introduce the lesson with a joke. In return, the child refrains from blurting out jokes while the teacher is delivering the lesson. By taking into consideration the childs interpretation of the situation and with symbol manipulation (using the childs symbol to motivate him to action), the teacher manages the students behavior. Not only that, but, because symbols are flexible and evolve from interactions, this interpersonal communication approach modifies the childs original perception of the teacher from always unfair to sometimes fair, helping the child to be more receptive to the teachers guidance and re-direction.

The Politeness Theory


The Politeness Theory applies concepts from both schools of thought, Identity Management and Symbolic Interaction. From the first perspective (Identity Management), we get an analysis about how individuals establish, develop, and maintain their identities (faces) during interactions. The concept of face, or the self-image that each individual wants to present to others, is central

to both schools of thought. The main assumption here is that we are all concerned with maintaining face (See Holtgraves, 2002). The Politeness Theory explains how an individual tries to promote, protect, or save face especially when dealing with an embarrassing or a shameful event. The notion of face has two dimensions: 1. Positive Face, or our wish to be liked, appreciated, and admired by those individuals that are important to us; for that reason, we behave in ways that will ensure their approval. 2. Negative Face or our wish to act freely, without constraints or limitations from others. When we can achieve only one face at the expense of the other face, our face needs are in conflict. Likewise, while interacting with others, our face needs may be in conflict. For example, during a teacher-student exchange, when the teacher is wearing the positive face and the student is wearing the negative face, the interaction can deteriorate into conflict. When the teacher acknowledges and is sensitive to the students specific face needs, the teacher will be more effective in balancing his/her own positive and negative faces. Even when our face needs are not in opposition, the interaction can still be conflictive, for example, when both the teacher and the child are wearing the negative face. Using the notion of face needs, we can teach our habitually disruptive and anger-prone students how to reach a balance between getting others attention and approval (positive face) while developing independence and self-sufficiency (negative face). According to the Politeness Theory, interactions like apologies, compliments, criticism, requests, commands, and threats are face-threatening acts or FTAs (See Holtgraves, 2002; Goldsmith on Baxter and Braithwaite, 2008; and Griffin, 2011). To preserve face, that is, to minimize a FTA, we can use specific strategies (messages) known as facework (Goffman as seen on Holtgraves, 2002). Preventive facework (Metts and Cupach on Baxter and Braithwaite, 2008) includes those communication strategies that we use to help ourselves or the student averts a FTA (before the embarrassing act). Some examples are: Avoiding the topic

Changing the topic Pretending we did not notice Corrective facework (Metts and Cupach on Baxter and Braithwaite, 2008) are the messages we send to help restore face, both our own and the childs face. For example, after an embarrassing event, we can use corrective strategies such as: Humor Avoiding the topic Apologizing An account or an explanation of the behavior that caused embarrassment When we are interacting in a way that threatens the students face needs, we can choose among one of five suprastrategies. Credited to Brown and Levinson (Holtgraves, 2002), these suprastrategies rank from most polite and least direct to least polite and most direct: 1. Avoidance. When we avoid talking with the student about the issue, we are choosing not to communicate in a way that could embarrass the student, or could make the child lose face. 2. Going off record. With this strategy, we are hinting or mentioning the facethreatening topic in a less direct way. Hints and suggestions are open messages that the student can pick up (or not). The student can interpret our suggestion in different ways, which minimizes any face threat. An indirect way of talking about the face-threatening topic would be, It is sad that the walls were covered with graffiti. I hope the child who did this is not afraid to come forward and faces the consequences of his actions. 3. Negative politeness. Here, we recognize the students negative face needs, that is, we recognize the childs need for freedom and lack of restrain. We are also acknowledging that our request inhibits the childs independence and we apologize for making such request. For example, Ricky, I feel sorry

about the whole situation, and I dont like asking you about this, but I really need your help. Do you know who covered the walls with graffiti? 4. Positive politeness. Using positive politeness, we appeal to the childs positive face, that is, the child wants others to like and approve of him or her. The face-threatening message is hidden beneath praise and compliments. For example, Ricky, you always say the truth, and the other kids admire you and follow your lead. I feel that I can count on you on this. Would you help me find who covered the walls with graffiti? 5. Bald on record. This is the most direct and least polite of the five suprastrategies. Now, we are not attempting to protect the students face, and simply deliver the face-threatening message (e.g. making a demand to the child). For example, Ricky, you covered the walls with graffiti, didnt you?

Principles
In the classroom, interpersonal communication is a language-based disciplinary approach that gives teachers communicative skills that change teachers responses to students behaviors, as well as communicative skills that change the behaviors of students. Teachers skilled in interpersonal communication are able to discipline children through supportive and constructive language. We base our face-to-face interactions with children on the premise that all children want to do the right thing, so it is up to the teacher to guide them. The teacher and/or staff member offers encouragement, guidance, and coaching that show children the way. Important interpersonal communication principles that we follow are: The language a teacher uses defines the teacher, for example, Mr. Randall is strict but fair and My teacher is friendly and she cares for me. The language a teacher uses defines the students, for example, cooperative, lazy, visual learner, sneaky, and dyslexic. Positive labels such as polite, creative, insightful, leader, and motivated positively influence how teachers communicate and relate with children.

Negative labels such as follower, messy-sloppy, troublemaker, oppositional, and emotionally troubled negatively influence how teachers communicate and relate with children. When the teacher changes his definitions and descriptions of the student (labels), he changes his perception of the child. When the teacher changes his perception of the child, he changes the way he communicates and relates with the child. When we tell a student to do something and the child refuses, it is helpful to think about whether the way we are telling the child to do things promotes noncompliance. The teacher that is able to adjust and modify her messages according to the individual child and the particular situation will get better compliance than the teacher that always uses static language such as right/wrong and good/bad. Once teachers realize that, the way we talk (our messages), influences childrens behavior, we can reduce and even eliminate disruptive classroom behavior. Negative messages trigger negative behavior, and positive messages trigger positive behavior. By approaching classroom situations differently, that is, changing our messages and expectations from negative to positive, teachers can change the behavior of students and improve the overall classroom atmosphere.

Overview
1. Interpersonal communication theories explain how personal and/or social relationships start, develop, and end. Some interpersonal communication theories explain how to maintain a social or a personal relationship; other theories focus on why some individuals relate to others the way they do. The consensus among these theories is that we define, initiate, maintain, deepen, or even terminate relationships based on the quality of our communications. Simply put, the way we communicate has a role in influencing our social interactions, relations, and behaviors. In applying this broader principle to the school setting, we explore how teachers can use interpersonal communication theory and principles to build positive and constructive teacher-students interactions and relationships. 2. Systems Perspective is a group of theories sharing an interactional view of relationships maintenance. From this group of interpersonal communication theories, we get the nonsummativity principle, or the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When some students, but not all students, in the classroom achieve that class is on negative synergy. To create positive synergy, all students in the classroom must achieve, including children with a history of school failure. Only the system (class) as a whole and working together can create positive synergy, something that individual members (individual students) in isolation cannot accomplish. Another important concept in systems perspective theory is homeostasis, or the tendency to maintain stability in face of changes. A classroom in conflict, or in negative homeostasis, is likely to remain in conflict, and any effort to reduce it may feed the conflict because conflict is the natural balance or homeostasis for that classroom. 3. The Coordinated Management of Meaning Theory (CMM) is a collection of ideas put together to explain interactions during the communication process. The main premise is that communication is about meanings, not only in the passive way of perceiving the message, but in the active

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way of creating the meaning of the message. Creating meaning is not done in isolation; all participants create meaning simultaneously and in coordination. In other words, each participant is at the same time influencing and being influenced by all the other participants in the interaction. When participants do not share one same meaning, the message loses clarity, coordination, and coherence sometimes even deteriorating into arguments and disagreements. The three core concepts in the coordinated management of meaning theory are (1) coherence or the stories we tell, (2) coordination or the stories we live, and (3) mystery or stories unexpressed. According to the coordinated management of meaning theory, we create our self-concept through the stories we tell; these stories are guides or scripts for our behavior. By telling and retelling a particular story, we can shape self into whatever picture or self-image we want it to be. The Symbolic Interaction Theory states that we live in a symbolic world as well as in a physical world. Symbols like words, gestures, and social rules help us understand (give meaning) and define our environment. We share symbols through human interactions, therefore, interactions give us meaning. The three main concepts in the symbolic interaction theory are: (1) meaning or the purpose and significance that we attribute to other people and things, (2) language or a set of shared meanings, and (3) thought, which modifies our interpretation of the symbols. The concept of meaning is central in understanding human behavior. Meaning is not fixed; when we interact, we create and/or modify meaning. In other words, right from the start, we get meaning when we share symbols which each other, and this original meaning continues evolving as we continue interacting. We act toward people and events based on symbolic meanings, that is, based on existing symbols already attached to those people or events. Our internalized symbols filter our perception of the event and shape our behavior.

8. Children develop their self-concept through the process of interacting and communicating with significant others like parents and teachers. In particular, the way significant others react to childrens behaviors and how children perceive and interpret those reactions. The concepts of teachers expectations and self-fulfilling prophesy are rooted in principles of symbolic interactions. 9. The concept of faces, or the self-image that individuals want to present to others, is central in several interpersonal communication theories, among them, the Politeness Theory. The main assumption here is that we are all concerned with maintaining face. The politeness theory explains how an individual tries to promote, protect, or save face especially when dealing with embarrassing or shameful events. The concept of face has two dimensions, the positive face, that is, our wish to be liked, appreciated, and admired by those individuals important to us, and the negative face, or our wish to act freely, without constrains or limitations. Our positive and negative faces may be in conflict. 10.Using the notion of face needs, we can teach disruptive students how to reach a balance between getting others attention and approval (positive face) while developing independence and self-sufficiency (negative face). 11.According to the politeness theory, speech acts like apologies, compliments, criticism, commands, and threats are FTAs or facethreatening acts. To help children preserve face, teachers can apply specific strategies known as facework, which can be either preventive facework (before the embarrassing event) or corrective facework (after the embarrassing event). In addition, when a message threatens the childs face, teachers can apply one of five suprastrategies, ranging from most polite to least polite.

Chapter Three Interpersonal Communication in the Classroom: Components and Skills


The central part in this discipline system is how we talk with children. Talking with children involves both a receptive component, or listening, and an expressive component or speaking. We elaborate on each specific component next.

The Receptive Side of Communication: Listening


Why We Should Listen to Children
Open and honest communication starts with effective listening. In the classroom, constructive behavior propagates from the teachers ability to listen. We can get a lot of the classroom discipline done just by knowing how to listen to childrens concerns, apprehensions, and feelings. By listening, we show respect, communicating to the child, You are important to me. I respect you and I want to hear what you have to say. Listening then, boosts childrens self-confidence and self-esteem. Listening is not just about being polite with the child; good listening is a supportive activity with an immense soothing and healing effect. Listening to a child that feels upset or is in distress is the foundation for building trust with that child. By spending time listening, we are perceived as working with the child rather than against the child. The teacher who listens to children is trusted more than the teacher that grabs the talking stick and goes straight into lecturing, nagging, judging, and/or reprimanding. Only when they trust us, children will talk with us, and only when we listen to children, we will earn that trust. As an added benefit, when we listen first, children follow by listening to us when is our turn to

talk. In child guidance, the teacher or counselor accomplishes more by concentrating in listening with very little talking.

Listening Types
Listening types are based upon (1) how attentive we are or depth and (2) our intention for listening or purpose. Based on depth, some common listening types are: Initial listening. Sometimes, we listen to the first few words or sentences, and then, we start thinking about what we want to say in return. Chances are that, from the very beginning, we are going to interrupt the child. We stopped listening the very first moment we started rehearsing our response in our heads. Casual listening. At this level, we seem to be listening, but in reality, we are not paying that much attention to the message. At best, our attention is fluctuating a lot. Partial listening. To be fair, with our busy lives and schedules, partial listening is what the majority of us do mostly. With partial listening, we are paying attention most of the time, but not all of the time. We start listening to the child with the best of our intentions, but then, for one reason or another (e.g. a sound, people interrupting, something that the child said, or even our own thoughts), we get distracted and lose the thread of what the child is saying. When that happens to us, it is best to acknowledge the fact that we were distracted, asking the child to repeat what she said. Selective listening. Listening for specific information while ignoring the rest. In other words, we hear what we want to hear and pay little attention and disregard the extraneous details. Active listening. Another name for active listening is attentive listening. Here, we are listening carefully, showing interest in the message and encouraging the student to keep talking.

Full listening. In full listening, we pay close and careful attention to what the child is saying in a genuine attempt to understand the full content of the communication. Full listening is a form of active listening that requires that we pause both to check that our understanding is accurate and for partial summaries. By the end of the conversation, we need to be able to summarize the verbal exchange. Deep listening. This type of listening goes way beyond the intensity of full listening. There is deeper meaning found in how the child says things (i.e. tone of voice, pitch, posture, and gestures), so, we listen between the lines in order to understand the childs spoken and unspoken meanings and motivators. In deep listening, we pay attention to the emotion (expressed and unexpressed), watch body language, detect needs, identify the childs goals, and identify preferences and beliefs. In other words, we seek to understand the whole child behind the words. In therapeutic settings, other names for this kind of listening are whole-person listening and total listening. Sport coaches know this intense listening as level three listening, that is, listening with all our senses: our eyes, our ears, our intuition, and gut (For more information on depth of listening, see DeVito, 2009 and Duck and McMahon, 2012). Based on purpose, some common listening types cited by communication experts (See for example, Duck and McMahon, 2012) are: Discriminative listening. This is the most basic type of listening. In discriminative listening, we listen to identify the difference between phonic sounds or physical sounds like a baby crying or a bell ringing. Content listening. This is the equivalent of full listening; other names for this type are informative listening and comprehension listening. Once we discriminate sounds, we need to make sense of them. Individual sounds come together to form words, and individual words put together create phrases and sentences. In comprehending the meaning of those words and sentences the rules of grammar and syntax come into play. Basically, content or comprehensive listening is listening to understand and to seek meaning. In communication, some words, phrases, and sentences are more

important than others are, so, we need good comprehension to be able to separate key information from less important information. Biased listening. Our labels and perceptions about the individual child bias what we hear. In biased listening, we process the information through the filter of our own biases, preconceptions, and assumptions. Like selective listening, we hear only what we want to hear, misinterpreting or distorting the rest. Biased listening is evaluative and judgmental in nature. Critical listening. Other names for this type are evaluative listening and judgmental listening. As the names suggest, this is listening in order to criticize, evaluate, and/or pass judgment on what the student is saying or in what the student is doing (behavior). Evaluative listeners judge the message and/or behavior against their own values, assessing message and behavior as right/wrong, good/bad, or worthy/unworthy. In addition, evaluative or judgmental listeners see themselves as truth seekers, looking for the truth and nothing but the truth. Appreciative listening. In this type of listening, we are seeking certain information that we like, and we listen for pleasure. For example, listening to music or poetry. In the classroom, appreciative listeners are teachers that actively look for ways to accept and appreciate children, searching for opportunities to praise and compliment their students. Sympathetic listening. In sympathetic listening, we are listening with concern for the childs feelings and well-being. We care about what the child is saying and show that it matters to us by expressing our sorrow (e.g. Im sorry to hear that your hamster is missing) or happiness (e.g. Im really glad that you found your hamster). Empathetic listening. When we demonstrate empathy, we are seeking to understand what the child is feeling, but, contrary to sympathy, we do not take ownership of the childs feelings (for example, feeling sad when the child is sad and feeling happy when the child is happy). Empathetic listening requires the ability to notice the emotional signals expressed in nonverbal communication; for example, You seem annoyed and You sound sad.

Therapeutic listening. Therapeutic listening is a form of empathetic listening (seeking to understand what the child is feeling and demonstrating our empathy), but, at the therapeutic level, we use our deep connection with the child to help him understand, develop, and/or change his behavior in some way. Reflective listening. Reflective listening is an example of therapeutic listening, requiring both in-depth listening skills and in-depth speaking skills. In reflective listening, we pay attention to the child, and then, we reflect back what she just said, encouraging the child to build on her thoughts and feelings. For example, Thats interesting; can you tell me more about it? Alternatively, From what I hear, I get the impression that you

Bad Listening Behaviors


In listening, certain behaviors negatively influence how well we listen to a childs concern. Some bad listening habits that we can name are: Listening only for facts (disregarding the childs feelings). Focusing on details only, missing the bigger picture. Hearing only superficial information, missing the real meaning. Asking too many questions about details. Letting the emotions (e.g. anger) and/or emotional words (e.g. cursing) block the message. Shutting down feelings, for example, Chill out. Stop feeling so angry! Force-fitting the childs message into our own mental mold (stuck in our own heads). Criticizing the child. Giving our opinion too soon in the interaction. Judging what the child just said, for example, How could you do something like that?

Blaming the child and prejudging culpability. Evaluating the message and/or the behavior, for example, Well, if you werent so angry Correcting the child, for example, Thats not how it happened. The other kids are saying that you were the one who started this fight. Rushing the child, making her feel that we do not have the time to listen to her concern.

Listening Skills
To build trust and to create rapport with children, teachers need to cultivate the habit of good listening, or listening skills. The first and most important habit of good listening is to pay attention to the child, not only with our ears, but with our body and mind too. Our body language communicates to the child that we are attentive, for example, face turned to the child, torso leaned forward, eyes wide-open, and raised eyebrows. Body language experts say that the trick to show an attentive body language is to do it first from inside our heads. When we care for the child and are truly interested in what he has to say, then our body attitude will follow our mind attitude. The second listening habit that we need to develop is to manage how we react to what the child says. It is important that we are aware of our own internal values, biases, and inferences. This does not mean that we need to inhibit our values; it simply means that we are not going to let our personal belief system be the defining force in the kinds of interactions that we are having with the child. Regardless of what the student says, we do not put down the child by reacting in an intense emotional way, for example, getting angry and making threats. (E.g. Youre going to see what happens if you keep that up!) Our face-to-face interactions with challenging students improve greatly when we stop reacting to the childs words and behaviors; we are the ones that control the interaction with gestures and body language that lead the child to calmness coupled with a soothing voice that dissolves strong emotions.

Other listening skills that teachers benefit to know are: 1. Sensitivity. We can define sensitivity as being responsive to the childs feelings, being interested and open enough to find out, understand the childs perspective, and respect the childs individuality (Adapted from Nichols, 2009). Among the things that teachers can do to show sensitivity are: paying attention, listening without agreeing or disagreeing, listening without giving our opinion and/or criticizing the child, noticing how the child appears to be feeling, acknowledging those feelings, and asking about the feelings, but without pushing too hard. 2. Acceptance. Borrowed from Carl Rogers client-centered therapy, the listening skill of acceptance closely resembles the skill of empathy. With acceptance, we understand that it is the students experience, not the teachers experience. In other words, we are recognizing and respecting the childs rights to his own perception of the event, to his own interpretation, and to his own feelings. Our personal perspective and interpretation of the event should not dictate the way we respond. Instead, we genuinely try to grasp the childs perspective and experience, and then, we reflect our understanding back to the child. Acceptance is not the same as agreement. We are simply accepting what the child is saying; we are neither accepting the problem itself, nor agreeing with it. We stay neutral, even when we disapprove of the message or behavior. Simple ways to communicate acceptance are nodding, touching the child on the shoulder, giving minimal encouragers (e.g. aha, go ahead), and keeping a serene facial expression. Keeping aligned with client-centered principles, we believe and accept that, when they learn the right social skills, children develop competence in selfmanaging behavior. 3. Supporting. Good listening skills always involve helping students feel better about themselves. We support children emotionally when we validate their ideas, concerns, and feelings. What the child worries about is real for the child and is important to her. In supporting the child, the teacher would say something like this, This seems difficult, but we are not going to give up until we understand why you Alternatively, you can say, Im on your

side, lets work on this situation together and Lets see what we can do together. 4. Non-Judgment. Being non-judgmental comes together with the listening skill of acceptance. Non-judgment means suspending our own frame of reference, that is, halting our own perception and interpretation of the problem long enough so that we can truly hear the child. Without negative criticism, we enter the childs perceptual world. Simply put, we handle the controversial issue with so much care and sensitivity that the child feels heard in a no accusatory way.

The Expressive Side of Communication: Speaking


When we listen to children, we open the door to communication; however, to keep that door open, reaching childrens inner world (the world where perceptions and feelings are), we need expressive skills or speaking skills. Effective speaking skills facilitate the communication, but the wrong message said at the wrong time will end that communication right away. To encourage children share thoughts and feelings in an honest and genuine way, general guidelines to follow are: Keep the conversation private. Maintain confidentiality. Be brief and keep your sentences short. Be concise, using fewer words than the child is. If you are the one doing most of the talking, chances are that you are lecturing or reprimanding. Be concrete, focusing on specifics rather than generalities. To help children focus on specifics, ask for examples, e.g., Give me an example. Respond only to what the child says about herself, not about other people. When the child names or blames another person, redirect the conversation back to the child, asking something like, And how do you feel about that?

Keep the conversation in the here and now. Do not talk about old issues or the childs personal history. Talk only about what is pertinent in the particular situation. Give the child enough time to complete his thoughts. Give the child time to make his point, acknowledge it (e.g. Your point is or What you are saying is), and only then you talk. Control the impulse to focus the conversation on you and what you want to say. The focus of the conversation is always on the child, never on the teacher. If the child has weak expressive skills, it is okay to help him articulate his ideas. Provide positive encouragement (e.g. nod, smile, and/or say something positive like, You can do this Go ahead); tell the child to talk around the word (i.e. describing the word, telling the use or function, and/or using easier words), or you can ask the child for examples. In addition, you can paraphrase the message (put it in different words), or you can say, Let me see if Im following. You are saying Am I right? Do not give the solution to the child or children; it is students job to find the solutions to their social problems, not teachers job. Teachers give support, guide, mediate, and coach, but they do not solve problems for children. Recognize when it is time to speak and when it is time to listen. Make yourself available at the critical points. Before saying anything, think of the effect that your words would have. Consider if the message creates the effect that you want it to achieve.

Speaking Skills
Speaking skills are structured ways to respond to children. We assure children that we understand their social-emotional needs, and we make children feel confident that we are going to address those needs. This interpersonal communication approach requires active listening skills (accepting both the child and the childs arguments), so that we respond with sensitivity and empathy. In

doing this, we are modeling to children the language and behavior that we want them to use in return. Effective speaking skills encourage children to build on their thoughts and feelings, and to explore deeper. Among the speaking skills that we can use are: 1. Repeating. To show understanding, we simply repeat the childs position. From time to time, we repeat a key word or a short phrase, for example, the child says, With my friends and the teacher repeats, Friends The child continues, We were playing basketball and the teacher says, Playing basketball If necessary, modify the language, for example, from I didnt mean to kick Frankie to You didnt mean it This simple strategy can be very encouraging: repeat, pause, and let the child fill-in the gap and keep on talking. In addition, repeating what the child says sometimes helps in clarifying meaning. On occasions, when we say something aloud is when we first understand the meaning. 2. Elaborating. In elaboration, we invite and encourage children to tell us more. Adding to what we said earlier, repeating a word, a phrase, or a sentence cues children that we are interested in what they are saying and we want to hear more. For example: Kenneth: I was in the lunchroom minding my own business Ms. Duff: You were in the lunchroom minding your own business Kenneth: I was just playing with cards. Ms. Duff: Playing with cards Kenneth: Theresa was cursing too. Ms. Duff: Cursing

Another way of cueing the child is saying Interesting or How interesting! Alternatively, we can simply tell or ask the child, for example, Tell me more about or Can you please tell me more about that? 3. Acknowledging. When we acknowledge, we reflect back the feeling (expressed or unexpressed) in the message, for example, You seem angry, You sound discouraged, or This sounds difficult to talk about.

Acknowledging feelings lets the child know that we listened, and that we understood the message. 4. Paraphrasing. On this speaking skill, we hear the feeling or attitude of what the child is saying (expressed or unexpressed), and we reword (paraphrase) this feeling or attitude in a restatement. Simply put, in paraphrasing, we are repeating the childs position in our own words, without anything added or taken away. Good paraphrasing includes some of the words and phrases that the child used, key ideas, and, if any, the repeated theme. This is what the neuro-linguistic tradition calls capturing the essence of the message. If we changed meaning or missed key information, our rewording will make it obvious. It is important that, after paraphrasing, we ask the child to confirm or correct our understanding of her feelings and thoughts. Paraphrasing helps children in clarifying their own feelings; some children are unaware of how they feel until they hear a restatement of it. Some sentence starters that we can use in paraphrasing are: What you are saying is Am I right? Let me make sure that Im following what you are saying. You feel that Is that what you mean? You mean Did I get it right? You think You believe It seems to you As you see it Correct me if Im wrong, but From where I stand, you As I understand this, you (want or plan) to The next speaking skills all require that we paraphrase the childs message in one form or another, but for different purposes. 5. Checking Perceptions. Each time we listen to children, in addition to getting information, we are forming impressions and perceptions about that

information. It is important that we confirm the validity of our perceptions. To check perceptions, some sentence starters that we can use are: I get the impression that you think Is that how it is? Let me see if Im getting this right. You Im picking up that you kids want As I am sensing this, you I understand the problem is What I hear in all of this is What I hear you kids saying is This is what I understand you want This is my perception of this situation

6. Verifying. This is a way of checking perceptions focusing on childrens feelings. Here, we verify if our assumptions about the childs feelings are accurate. Examples of sentence starters are: You sound worry about this test. Is that how you feel? Perhaps you are feeling guilty. Is that true? You seem offended speaking of _____. Is that correct? Tell me if Im wrong, but somehow I get the impression that you were disappointed with Lisas reaction. Do you feel a little scared? My feeling is that you are agonizing with this decision. Am I right? You appear to be feeling that your friends betrayed you. 7. Clarifying. To clarify, we ask questions that help fill-in the blanks, get details, get more information, and explore all sides of the issue. These facilitative questions, always start with who, when, where, what, or how; excluding why. To clarify feelings, needs, or intentions, we can use guessing phrases such as Were you wanting? or Were you trying to? Because questions and guessing phrases are tentative language, we can get the facts we need without blaming, labeling, or assigning culpability. To clarify, we can use a sentence starter such as, Im stuck right now. It would help

me if I knew more about what happened. Will you kids help me out? Alternatively, we can paraphrase, using sentence starters such as: Im not sure I am following. Did you mean that? Let me see if Im getting this right. What I hear you saying is Am I right? Correct me if Im wrong Could this be whats going on, you? Is it possible that? Maybe this is a long shot, but Is there any chance that you? When children are vague or unclear, it is important that we ask for clarification to make sure that we understand what they mean. The key phrase here is I dont understand or Im confused. 8. Summarizing. At the end of the conversation, and in-between key points, we summarize what we understood, tying together the main points that both the teacher and the child expressed. A good summary is brief, to the point, acknowledges key thoughts and feelings, and addresses the initial concern or question. We can ask the child for a summary too, or both teacher and student can take turns summarizing. Some sentence starters for summaries are: So, overall, you are saying _____. Is that okay? Let me tell you what I understood so far You did a good job describing the situation. Lets review what you said So, you want to read your book quietly, but the reading corner is too crowded. Is that right? Summaries identify the things to do in the future, including who and when. They help maintain focus, especially with children engaged in storytelling. Finally, summaries help put related issues together on a theme.

Overview
1. The central part in an interpersonal communication discipline system is how we talk with children. Talking with children involves both a receptive component or listening, and an expressive component or speaking. Teachers can get a lot of the classroom discipline done just by knowing how to listen to childrens concerns, apprehensions, and feelings. 2. Listening to children requires more than being polite to the distraught child; good listening is a supportive experience with immense soothing and healing value. The teacher who listens to children is trusted more than the teacher that grabs the talking stick and goes straight into lecturing, nagging, judging, and/or reprimanding. 3. Based upon depth (how attentive we are) there are seven listening types: (a) initial, (b) casual, (c) partial, (d) selective, (e) active, (f) full, and (g) deep. In partial listening, we listen most of the time, but not all the time; selective listening is biased and we are interested only in specific information. Deep listening is the same as listening between the lines, that is, we pay attention to the emotion, detect needs, and identify the childs goals. 4. Based upon our intention for listening or purpose, the nine listening types are: (a) discriminative, (b) content or comprehension, (c) biased, (d) critical, (e) appreciative, (f) sympathetic, (g) empathetic, (h) therapeutic, and (i) reflective. Both the biased and the critical listening types are evaluative and judgmental in nature. Therapeutic listening is a form of empathetic listening, but at the therapeutic level, we use our deep connection to help the child understand, develop, and/or change his behavior. Reflective listening is an example of therapeutic listening. 5. To build trust and to create rapport with children, teachers need to cultivate the habit of good listening. Among the listening skills that teachers benefit in developing are: sensitivity, acceptance, supporting, and non-judgment. We support children emotionally when we validate

their ideas, concerns, and feelings. Good listening skills always involve helping students feel better about themselves. 6. Listening to children opens the door to communication. To keep the communication door open, reaching childrens inner world, teachers also need expressive or speaking skills. Speaking skills are structured ways to respond to children. Effective speaking skills encourage children to build on their thoughts and feelings, and to explore deeper. 7. The eight speaking skills are: (a) repeating, (b) elaborating, (c) acknowledging, (d) paraphrasing, (e) checking perceptions, (f) verifying, (g) clarifying, and (h) summarizing. Starting at the elaboration level, we invite and encourage the child to tell us more. In both checking perceptions and verifying, we corroborate if our impressions about the messages content and/or the childs feelings are accurate. To clarify feelings, needs, or intentions, we can use either facilitative questions (who, when, where, what, and how) or guessing phrases. 8. It is important that, before saying anything to a child, we think of the effect that our words would have. We need to consider if the message creates the effect we want.

Part II Interpersonal Communication Is Everything And Everywhere!

Chapter Four A Therapeutic Framework of Interpersonal Communication


On this chapter, we present eight models of communication that set the tone for transforming day-to-day classroom interactions into therapeutic language, that is, communication that influences positive behavior and is growth promoting.

Assertive
Therapeutic language is assertive language. When we are assertive, we express feelings, opinions, beliefs, and/or personal needs (what we want) in a direct, honest, and socially appropriate way. Contrary to aggressive language, in assertive communication, we say what is in our minds in a way that takes into consideration both our own needs as well as the needs of the other person. An assertive student, for example, recognizes that she has rights, expecting respect from others, but at the same time, she understands that all children in the classroom have similar rights. For instance, the assertive student says, I have the right to read my book without being interrupted, but so is Dennis. Aggressive children, on the other hand, recognize only their own rights, disregarding, and on occasions violating, the rights of the other students. Loudly, the aggressive child demands that other children respect her right to read without interruptions; however, it is okay when she distracts Dennis from reading, and, if Dennis dares complaining, she beats him up. The example above illustrates why assertive communication has become one of the most popular approaches for teaching children how they can deal with interpersonal conflict in the classroom. Assertive communication teaches children how to use language that shows consideration for the wants and needs

of the other child, while attempting to satisfy own wants and needs. Because it includes the wants and needs of both students in conflict, children learn to negotiate until they reach a fair compromise, agreed by all parts in conflict. In a fair compromise, each child gets something and loses something (e.g. 53%47%), with no child getting most (e.g. 90%) while the other child gets little (e.g. 10%). A good way to start teaching compromising skills is for each child to answer, What am I willing to give so that I can solve this problem and get something that I want? Then, children take turns making an offer to the other child, using a sentence starter like, I am willing to give _____ if you give_____. The main premise in assertive communication is that we can stand for our personal rights without being hostile or forcing other children to do what they do not want to do. The technique of request making teaches children how to do just that. Assertive requests can be highly sophisticated (five steps or more, including an empathic statement that acknowledges the other childs feelings and behavioral consequences, both negative and positive); however, younger kids and low cognitive functioning kids can learn how to make an assertive request in three easy steps. 1. Without blaming or name-calling, describe the behavior that you do not like. For example, You took my sharpener without asking me first. 2. Describe how you think or feel (personal reaction); for example, I feel angry when you take my things without telling me. 3. Tell the other child what you want (request for new behavior or goal); for example, I want my sharpener back. I dont mind sharing with you, but I want you to ask me first. Yelling No! or Stop that! is not being assertive. To say, No or Stop that assertively, first, the child describes the behavior and identifies feelings, and then, she states her position. A sentence frame that we can teach children would be, When you _____ (behavior), I feel _____ (personal reaction), and I want _____ (goal). The way in which the child makes the request or stands up for her rights is also important; we encourage children to use a firm and confident, but

not loud or angry, tone of voice. Of course, making an assertive request does not guarantee that the child is going to get what she wants, but at least, is a good start. Sometimes, three simple steps will be enough to solve the problem, but other issues will require in-depth conflict resolution skills. Simple or complex, the first step in reducing social problems in the classroom is to use assertive language.

Assertive Language Starts with the Teacher


The more assertive language we model to children, the more assertive language children will use, not only while interacting with us, but also when interacting with their peers. Therefore, be always on the look for opportunities, or teachable moments, to model assertive language. Here is one example: I am going to stop reading aloud, because I hear children talking among themselves (describing the behavior that I do not like, but without naming any specific child). It is hard for me to concentrate with noise (personal reaction), and because I had to stop, now the whole class is wasting time (negative consequence). I feel frustrated when I cannot do my job (my feelings). When the noise stops (what I want or new behavior; this is also a positive expectation), I will finish reading the story (positive consequence).

Optimistic
Therapeutic language is always optimistic, guiding children in explaining academic failures and setbacks accurately and positively. Based on ideas and principles proposed by Martin E. Seligman et al. on the classic book The Optimistic Child (1995), optimism teaches children to explain failure as a temporary and local event; for example, saying, I had a bad game today as opposed to I never do anything right. The child talking in the first sentence (optimistic child) is using specific (game) and temporary (today) language, or causes, to explain his disappointing performance. The second child (pessimistic), on the other hand, is generalizing his bad experience (using words like never and anything); giving the impression that is something that permeates his whole life. In addition, the pessimistic child explains negative events as resulting from weaknesses and flaws

in his own character. Of the two, the optimistic child has a better chance to put his bad experience behind him and of staying focused in improving his performance in the future. The basis of optimism does not lie in teaching children to recite positive phrases or to imagine themselves winning the basketball game or acing the spelling test. That always helps, but optimism is more than catchy phrases or images of success; optimism is a way of thinking, specifically, the way children think about the causes for failure and success. This particular way of thinking, or habit, about causes is known in the optimistic literature as childrens explanatory styles. There are three explanatory styles, each with a pessimistic pole and an optimistic pole. Next, we detail the cause for failure from both the pessimistic and the optimistic perspective. In the example, the pessimistic side is on the left and the optimistic side is on the right; however, to explain the cause for success, pessimistic and optimistic children reverse the poles. Permanent- Temporary. In a permanent explanatory style, the pessimistic child believes that the cause for failure is something that will persist. Examples of permanent language are words like always and never. The optimistic child, on the other hand, thinks of failure as something changeable and transient, that is, something that happens sometimes. Permanence is an important element to help children develop resilience. When children feel that bad events are permanent, they feel down and may develop helplessness, but if children believe that the situation is temporary and that they can do something to change it, they feel energized and challenged. Global-Specific. The global explanatory style explains failure as something affecting many situations (e.g. I stink at everything!). The specific explanatory style explains failure as something that affects only a few situations (e.g. I stink at dancing and spelling, but Im a great basketball player, Im good in math, and girls love me). Children that use global explanations for failures are likely to give up on everything when they fail in just one area. The child using a specific explanation, on the other hand, may give up in the specific

area that he feels he stinks (e.g. dancing), but continues doing fine in other areas. It is also easier to motivate that child to keep improving other areas of weaknesses (e.g. spelling). Personal-Impersonal. The personal explanatory style believes he or she is the cause for failure; more specifically, this child attributes failure to his or her own lack of ability (e.g. I failed the spelling test because Im dumb), or to a character flaw (e.g. Thats just my temper. I get angry easily). On the other hand, the impersonal explanatory style believes that other people or circumstances are the cause for failure (e.g. I failed the spelling test because Ms. Richardson put tricky words or I failed the spelling test because the room was too cold and I couldnt concentrate). As we said earlier, if they were to explain successful experiences, pessimistic and optimistic children reverse their explanatory styles. Now, the pessimistic child uses temporary, specific, and impersonal language, and the optimistic child uses language that is permanent, global, and personal. For instance, to explain his good score on the spelling test, the pessimistic child will say something like, This time, I was lucky. The phrase this time contains temporary and specific language, and the word luck is both external and impersonal. Having good or bad luck is something that happens to us; we do not control luck. The optimistic child attributes his good score to his ability, for example, Im smart or Im a good speller. Contrary to the pessimistic childs good or bad luck, ability is something that we are born with (internal and personal), in addition to being both permanent (the child will always have good ability) and pervasive (ability affects many areas of life). The notion of explanatory styles is at the heart of a childs belief system, that is, what the child believes to be true. Teachers with a good grasping of childrens belief systems can help students with negative self-perceptions and low expectations manage those attitudes and expectations in a therapeutic way. When a child believes that the cause for his bad grades or disruptive behavior is permanent, global, and personal, that child will end losing hope and decreasing his effort to improve. After all, why trying if he will end up doing badly anyway.

Teachers of children with learning disabilities and/or students with behavior problems know these children very well. They sit in their desks all day long overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity and helplessness, believing that no matter how hard they try, they simply do not have the skills and/or the ability to achieve. To help children develop optimistic thinking and talking, first, teachers need good listening skills, so that they pick up the negative and pessimistic thinking that the child is revealing in her explanatory style. For instance, when the child makes a mistake or gets a bad grade, how does she explain the result? Is she blaming her behavior (e.g. I didnt study hard enough), or blaming her character (e.g. Im stupid!)? Is the blame global (e.g. I never do anything right) or specific (e.g. I screwed it this time)? Optimistic language trains children in replacing generalized self-blaming explanations with explanations that blame a particular behavior, pointing to a cause (action or behavior) that the child can change. In optimistic talking, we help children fix their language, redirecting the blame from themselves (character or identity) to their behavior. Children learn to explain failure replacing global, permanent, and/or personal causes with specific, temporary, and/or impersonal causes. Behavior (e.g. effort) is much easier to change than ability or character, therefore, children that use behavioral language are in a better position to improve their behavior and skills. Examples: Global: I stink at sports! Specific: I stink at soccer! Global and Permanent: Denise hates me, and she will never play soccer with me. Specific and Temporary: Denise is angry with me and she will not play soccer with me today. On the next example, the child uses a personal explanatory style in both sentences, but in the first sentence, the negative outcome is something that the child does not control; in the second example, we shift the child to focus on her behavior or effort. Effort is an important component both in fixing pessimistic thinking and in strengthening childrens motivation. We elaborate on effort in the next section.

I failed the spelling test because Im stupid! I failed the spelling test because I did not study my words. To train children in redirecting self-blame from their character to their behavior, my favorite motto is, Youre not your behavior; you do your behavior. Then, the child repeats, I am not my behavior; I do my behavior. And when the child asks, but whats the difference? I respond dramatically, Oh, theres a huge difference! I cannot change my brown eyes (who I am) but I can change what I do (my behavior). Is amazing to see how many children with behavior deficits perceive their disruptive behaviors as ultimate truth; that is, for these children, their behavior is their identity. You see surprise reflected in their faces when they hear, probably for the first time in their lives, that they can change their behavior and that their behavior, good or bad, is their choice. Optimistic and behavioral language is not going to make these childrens problems disappear, but it will help in identifying the specific behaviors that are at the root of those problems, so that we focus the child in trying harder to change those behaviors.

Motivational
Therapeutic language is motivational language. Motivational teachers develop patterns of interactions with students that enhance childrens willingness to spend effort, to engage in tasks, and to achieve academically. Motivational teachers use language that develops in students the beliefs and behaviors that sustain their long-term involvement. Motivational teachers are enthusiastic about teaching, and they want children to value the process of learning and the improvement of their skills and abilities. Motivational teachers encourage children to put effort willingly, so that they can develop and/or improve their current skills. Motivational teachers believe that teachers have the power to influence and motivate children, searching constantly for innovative and creative ways to keep children focused and engaged in the academic tasks. Motivational teachers give students motivation a central place in their teaching, focusing in developing a positive motivational orientation in children.

At the most basic level, we can define motivation as the amount of effort that a student is willing to put toward achieving a goal. The level of effort that the child puts in turn determines the selection, direction, and continuation of those behaviors that are instrumental in reaching the goal. Other definitions of motivation focus on the notion of engagement, but regardless of the definition, the motivational literature agrees that motivation is an internal process, that is, motivation comes from within the person. The teachers role is to create and/or strengthen the conditions, or learning environment, that stimulate that internal process. What teachers say and do in the classroom influence children in moving in a more productive (i.e. engaged) or less productive (i.e. lack of interest) direction. Having a better understanding of the teachers role in the motivational process helps teachers in integrating the messages and behaviors that reinforce childrens motivation. A central question in motivating children, especially children with a long history of school failure, is, What can I say and do to help my students interpret their classroom setbacks in ways that elicit their renewed effort? The first thing that we need to keep in mind is that motivation is about how children think about their dreams and about their ability to reach their dreams. Children who believe that their dreams are within their reach will put more effort than children who believe that they will never be able to reach their dreams. As teachers, we can do a lot to influence those beliefs. Motivated learners have more than just a vision or a dream; motivated learners have goals, they initiate actions toward those goals, they put effort, and they persist in that effort. Simply put, motivated learners develop a plan with a goal, strategies, and steps. Children with low academic skills or behavior problems also have dreams (the vision), but without an action plan, those dreams will remain as they are, never turning into realities. The way to turn a dream, or vision, into a goal is with a plan. Dreams are unfocused and they lack a plan; to translate a dream into a goal, children need a plan. This is the kind of motivational and action-oriented language that our low-achieving students need to hear from teachers. When they fail, we tell them that they did not fail; the plan and/or strategy that they used failed, and, to get a better result, they need to develop a better plan. Then, we coach the child in developing an action plan, with

short-term goals, a long-term goal, strategies, steps, and sub-steps. A welldeveloped plan selects behavior and gives direction to that behavior, which are two of the three elements included in the definition of motivation.

Important Motivational Constructs


In motivational theory, the concepts of locus of control, attribution style, and effort are important to understand, so that we can recognize childrens selfdefeating statements, and we guide them in substituting these negative statements with language that keeps them focused and helps them persist during difficult tasks. Next, we elaborate on each concept.

Locus of Control
The concept of locus of control was developed by Julian Rotter back in the 1950s. In the general sense, locus of control is a perception, or a belief, about the causes of outcomes in our lives. There are two loci of control orientations, internal and external. Children with an internal locus of control orientation believe that the outcomes of events are contingent on what they do, that is, good (rewards) or bad (punishment) consequences are a direct result of their actions. Children with an external locus of control orientation believe that consequences, good or bad, are always outside their personal control, for example, luck, chance, other people, or external circumstances. Although this sounds similar to what Seligman forty five years later called internal-external explanatory styles, the main difference here is that, in explanatory styles, the outcome of an event can be perceived either as personal (internal) and within the childs control or personal (internal) but outside the childs control. For example, the childs effort is internal, changeable, and controllable, but ability, also internal, is a stable attribute outside the childs control. Children who believe they have no control over good or bad outcomes do not learn well from experiences, failing to establish the connection between own behavior and the consequence. For a similar reason, these children seem less responsive to classroom rewards, incentives and/or negative consequences (e.g.

losing tokens); in addition to be less likely to work on self-improvement. On the other hand, children who believe that they control outcomes are more likely to believe that their skills and effort influence the outcome, for example, The harder I study, the higher the score Ill get in the spelling quiz. Setting goals and making choices are two strategic interventions that help children develop an internal locus of control orientation. The concept of control is central in most theories of motivation, including social learning theories, self-efficacy theories, attribution theories, and Seligmans own learned helplessness theory.

Attribution Style
A related motivational concept is attribution style or attributional style. An attribution is a cause and effect inference that explains pleasant and unpleasant events by indicating a cause. Inferences can be dispositional (i.e. personality or ability) or situational (environment). A self-attribution tries to explain how our personal characteristics and the environment cause us to behave the way we do. For example, Why did I fail the spelling test? Common attributional factors are effort, task difficulty, ability, and luck. Some authors use the terms attributional style and explanatory styles interchangeably, however, there are many similarities and some differences between the two. Attribution style is part of Weiners broader theory in achievement motivation while an explanatory style elaborates on how childrens attributions of success and failure may lead to learned helplessness. We can classify attributions along three causal dimensions: 1. Locus of control, which as we said is either internal or external. 2. Stability, that is, the cause can change (is unstable) or cannot change (is stable). 3. Controllability, which contrasts causes that we can control (controllable), for example, our skills and effort from those causes that we cannot control (uncontrollable), for example, ability, other peoples actions, or luck. Elaborating on failure, childrens attributions that are internal (e.g. I am the cause), stable (are consistent and do not change), and uncontrollable

(outside the childs control) lead to a helpless orientation. The factor of controllability is crucial here, because it helps understand how a learned helpless student can perceive the cause for failure as internal, yet the child still believes she has no control over the outcome, for example, believing that failure is due to her low ability. Teachers can use attribution theory to keep students motivated. The first part in doing this is developing awareness in how our own attributional messages are influencing (reinforcing or depressing) childrens motivation. It is important that teachers monitor the attributional messages sent while interacting with lowachieving children. For instance, with the best of our intention, we take additional steps to make sure that our low-achieving student gets the extra help she needs without realizing that, simultaneously, we are conveying the message that the child is in need of more help because of her low ability. As stated earlier, ability is something that the child perceives she cannot control, so, if we are not careful, we may be strengthening the self-defeating belief that things will always remain the same for this child. I know of innovative teachers that minimize any damaging effect communicated in a lower attributions message by making the practice of getting help (from teacher or a proficient peer) a regular experience for all children in the classroom, including high-achieving students. For instance, in one corner of the room a high-achieving child is getting help in polishing her fiveparagraph essay while, in another spot, the low-achieving child gets extra support in expanding the length of sentences on her three-paragraph essay. This classroom management practice prevents lower-achieving students to feel singled-out as the ones always in need of extra help. In a second scenario, low attributions may be sent to some children when our best readers always share the same table or are part of the same reading group while our slowest readers sit together. In this last case, to control for maladaptive attributions, we can create instructional grouping that is mixed, switching group members so that, throughout the year, every child in the room is part of several groups with different members each. Students too need to develop awareness of the kinds of attributions they use, which is the second part in modifying maladaptive attributions. When we

help children monitor their attributional language, we can identify the cause and effect inferences they create to explain their successes and failures. For instance, are children attributing failure to internal or to external causes, stable or unstable characteristics, and/or controllable or uncontrollable factors? In Wolters (2003) attribution retraining, the key is to manipulate students attributions so that they learn to attribute failure to causes that they can control. For example, when a child attributes his disruptive behavior to his angry temperament (an internal, stable, and uncontrollable attribution), or attributes a low grade to low ability (internal, stable, and uncontrollable), we work with the child in identifying changeable and controllable attributions, more specifically, effort (internal, changeable, and controllable) and strategy use (internal, changeable, and controllable). This way, we shift children to focus on inadequate effort (i.e. effort that was not focused and lacked a plan) as the main contributor in failing at the same time that we reinforce the belief that exercising appropriate effort (i.e. focused and planned) improves academic performance. In other words, we need to convince children that academic improvement is largely due to factors that they can control, and is within their grasp. Notice how the word improvement sends a much different attributional message than words such as achievement and success. Improvement is incremental, even a small amount of improvement reinforces positive attributions. On the other hand, success is an absolute concept; we either succeed or we fail. When we focus our low-achieving students on improving, a score of fifty can be extremely rewarding when compared with earlier scores of thirty and thirty-eight, but if the focus is on success, the same score of fifty is now perceived as failure. Motivational language ensures that our low-achieving students see their setbacks, disappointments, and even the smallest of improvement in ways that elicit focused and planned effort rather than discouragement and helplessness.

Not All Effort is the Right Effort


In general, it is positive for children to believe that their own behaviors, rather than external circumstances, lead to success or failure. Additionally, helping children link an internal locus of control with the notion of controllability

(the idea that they can control the outcome) leads to stronger academic performance. Children work harder and are more persistent on academic tasks when they perceive failure as internal but unstable and controllable, that is, when they see clearly the connection between failure in an academic task and the effort they put in that task. Many theories of motivation focus on effort as the factor critical in school success. But what about sweet and quiet Lisa, seated in the back of the fifth row, who is already working hard, but still failing? Children like Lisa need to attribute failure to lack of appropriate effort. We need to explicitly teach students that effort is not about spending endless hours doing ineffective activities (e.g. writing the spelling words twenty times each); effective effort is strategic effort, more specifically, using the right learning strategy for the skill. It is obvious that writing each spelling word twenty times is not helping Lisa, also indicating that the child needs to change the way she is practicing her spelling words. To be able to modify her approach, Lisa needs a variety of learning strategies, so that, when the strategy she is using is not working, she switches to a different learning strategy and tries something different. This way, if Lisa gets a disappointing score, we can tell her that she needs to put her best effort, making sure that the child understands that best effort means better strategy. Simply put, we help Lisa conclude that the low score did not come from a lack of effort or low ability, but from the fact that she did not use her study time in an effective and strategic way. This strategic effort attribution weakens Lisas maladaptive attribution (e.g. Im dumb!), encouraging the child to keep trying until she finds a more efficient strategy to learn her spelling words.

Rational
Therapeutic language is rational language. Rational thinking and talking derive from the cognitive-emotive tradition, more specifically, Albert Ellis. Since the mid-70s, general and special education teachers have implemented rationalemotive techniques (RET) with emotional and behavioral disordered students in classroom settings. The cognitive-emotive view states that we do not react emotionally and/or behaviorally to the events we experience; instead, we create our own reactions by the way we perceive, interpret, and evaluate the event. In

other words, the situations that happen to us do not upset or disturb us, but rather, our view (thoughts) of those events is what disturbs us. The basic premise in cognitive-emotive theory is that we feel the way we think; that is, our thinking creates our emotions. Putting this within the context of Elliss A-B-C Model of Emotions, an external event at point A (antecedent) does not make us feel angry, upset, or disturbed at point C (consequence). We upset ourselves at point B (our belief about what happened at point A) by feeding our mind with angry thoughts such as I hate Melinda! and Im going to hit her! A belief, or what we said to ourselves about the event at point A, has two broad categories: it can be rational or it can be irrational. A rational belief always elicits a moderate emotional reaction; for example, we feel annoyed or irritated about what happened. In addition, the rational belief is supported by evidence, that is, we can describe it behaviorally, and we can prove that it happened. On the other hand, an irrational belief elicits an extreme emotional response (e.g. rage), and the belief gets no support from the evidence available (it cannot be proved). An irrational belief may lead to self-defeating and self-destructive consequences, for example, aggressive and/or acting-out behaviors. Rational thinking and positive thinking are not the same. A rational belief can still be negative (e.g. acknowledging how difficult it is for me to learn French), and vice versa, an irrational belief can be positive (e.g. believing that Ill become fluent in French in less than six months when presently, I struggle in learning basic words). Basically, what the cognitive-emotive theory says is that all emotions, and the behaviors that follow them, are caused by our own thoughts and private speech (what we say to ourselves). From the cognitive-emotive perspective, to help angry students overcome troubling emotions and aggressive behaviors, we need to help them develop new ways (habits) of thinking and self-talking. The cognitiveemotive approach helps children understand how their emotions relate to their behavior, making explicit the direct connection between what children believe to be true and the way they behave. Children learn that what they believe about themselves, others, and their environment directly influences their behavior. This approach focuses on helping students see the strong link between what they

think and how they feel. Children also learn that controlling their thoughts is the road to emotional and behavioral self-control.

Cognitive Distortions
The cognitive-emotive approach guides students in analyzing their thoughts; in particular, the errors or distortions in thinking that trigger maladaptive behaviors. To do this, the basic technique is to help the child identify what she was thinking or saying to herself at the time. The idea is for the child to substitute irrational thinking with more rational and realistic thoughts, which in turn leads to behavior that is better adjusted. The following are common errors in thinking or cognitive distortions that the cognitive-emotive literature identifies. 1. Jumping to conclusions and reacting according to the irrational conclusion without waiting for the facts. 2. Focusing in the negative or paying attention only to what supports the irrational belief. For example, I slipped on the dance, now everybody thinks that Im such a terrible dancer. 3. Disqualifying the positive or dismissing the information that contradicts the negative belief. For example, When my dance teacher complimented me, was simply because she is nice, and she is overlooking how badly I danced. 4. Minimization, that is, the child believing that his accomplishments are not important, or are trivial. For example, the child believes that he got a good score in the dance contest because the dance was easy, or he just had good luck. 5. Catastrophic thinking or making the event worse. The child believes that errors, mistakes, and negative outcomes are awful and the worst thing that could happen. He blows the event out of proportion, perceiving the negative outcome as a disaster that he cannot manage.

6. All-or-none thinking or dichotomous thinking, for example, Everybody hates me and Nobody loves me. 7. Always-or-never thinking or absolute thinking. For example, Im always so clumsy! and I will never have friends. The child thinks that, because things are bad today, they will always be bad, believing something like, Every time I try, I fail. 8. Generalization or drawing a general rule from an isolated event and applying that rule to other unrelated events. The child believes that because something goes wrong, everything else will go wrong. For example, Im such a bad dancer; Im never going to be good at anything. Labels like, Im dumb! and Im a jerk! are also examples of generalizations. 9. Personalization or the child believing that negative outcomes are always his fault. For example, My dance teacher seems upset. She is thinking that Im a huge disappointment. 10.Self-judging, for example, Im the worst dancer that ever existed. Teachers knowledgeable in rational thinking pay close attention to the words and phrases children say, because, childrens choice of words is a window into their thinking. Words that may reveal absolutistic and generalized beliefs are words like always, never, should (e.g. Things should go my way), and must (e.g. Melinda must be nice to me and I must be retarded if I cannot do well in dance). Irrational beliefs generally fall into one of three categories: 1. Demands like should, must, and have to. 2. Exaggerations like, My life is ruined and If I dont win the dance contest, Ill die! 3. Absolute thinking like, Melinda had no right to laugh when I slipped. Childrens private speech helps them identify the things they were thinking and/or saying to trouble themselves. A teacher using rational language helps the child debate his own thinking in a process called disputation. The goal in disputation is to teach the child to question his own thinking, that is, to learn self-

disputation. To develop rational thinking, the teacher asks lead questions that help the child see the good and bad points in his behavior, discerning between inconsistencies and contradictions in both thinking and behavior. Examples of lead questions that teachers ask are: Why do you think this is so terrible? What evidence do you have that this is such a catastrophe? Where is the proof that you are going to have this problem all your life? What were you telling yourself that is causing you to believe that? To elicit the childs belief system, two lead questions that the teacher can ask are: 1. What were you thinking when _____ happened? 2. What were you saying to yourself when _____ happened? With rational thinking and talking, children develop the insight that, while they have little control over what happened, they control how they respond to what happened; in other words, children control what they think about the event, how they feel, and their behavior. Rational language reinforces in children the belief that they can control their thoughts, even when they have no control over the event. A student trained in rational language reaches a conclusion like, This is not helpful thinking. Im going to try to change my thoughts. Just because I cannot dance, it does not mean the world is ending or that Im such a terrible child. It helps me more to think that I am not perfect (nobody is), and even when I mess up, it is not the end of the world. Another example is, The only thing worse about losing the dance competition is losing the dance competition and then making myself miserable because of it. To train children in dealing with troublesome events rationally, two self-questions that they answer are: 1. What am I thinking (or saying to myself) that is causing me to feel angry? 2. What can I say to myself to change my thinking?

Simply put, rational language helps children recognize self-defeating and self-destructive thinking, to relinquish the irrational belief that is feeding those self-defeating and self-destructive thoughts, and then to adopt a more adaptive (rational) way of thinking. In addition, rational language focuses children on what they do well. For example: I make mistakes but I also do a lot of things okay. Im not the same as my behavior; Im not bad even when I behave badly. I can fix my behavior. Even my (mistake or past behavior), I partly did it in the process of learning how to do better. My past behavior does not prove that I cannot do better (or make progress) in the future. Teachers that use rational language and premises teach children that other people or external circumstances do not create anger; angry and troubling feelings simply reflect childrens thoughts and self-talking about the situation. With rational language, children learn that they are the ones in control of their feelings and emotions by the way they interpret the event and the actions they choose to take about the event. Teachers that use rational language never ask the child How this situation with Melinda makes you feel? (Reaction) Instead, the teacher asks, How do you feel about this situation with Melinda? (Action) In addition, rational language helps the child fix his messages from Melinda made me angry to I choose to be angry at Melinda, and from I must hit Melinda to I choose to hit Melinda. In coping with anger and troubling feelings, rational language is a therapeutic tool that trains children in understanding and selfmanaging the troubling feeling through increased awareness of the thoughts and personal speech that triggered the angry feeling and/or acting-out behavior.

Goal-Oriented
Therapeutic language guides children in setting goals for improvement, both academically and behaviorally. A long-term goal developed incrementally; that is, with smaller, easier steps (short-term goals and mini-goals) that bring students closer to the bigger goal in small amounts can be a powerful tool in motivating children. Goals influence persistence; when children are in pursue of a goal, they try harder and work through setbacks. Goals narrow attention, focusing childrens effort in goal-relevant activities and away from unnecessary and unproductive activities. Goals guide and direct behavior, telling children specifically what they need to do to reach the goal. Most importantly, when we identify goals, we are strengthening self-esteem, communicating to children that they are worthy of those goals and worthy of developing the traits and skills they need to reach their long-term goals. As we said earlier, all children have dreams. What a disruptive or lowachieving child lacks is the knowledge, skills, tools, beliefs, and/or discipline to turn those dreams into reality. In other words, the disruptive or low-achieving child also dreams about where she wants to go, but does not know how to get there. A goal-oriented teacher takes that childs dream, or vision, and turns that dream into the starting point or the long-term goal. The long-term goal translates the unfocused dream into specific behavioral language, or language that is actionoriented. Starting with the basic vision (long-term goal), teacher and student answer what the child needs to do to achieve the goal. This takes teacher and student right into the next step, the plan. In achieving long and short-term goals, the plan is like a road map that gives directions to the child in how to get there. Children need to understand that, in order for their dreams to come true, they need to spend effort. With the plan, we help the child focus her effort in a particular direction, more specifically, what the child does first, second, third; and what milestones she will reach before continuing with the next step in the plan. Most importantly, success depends on what the child does (her behavior), not on what other people do, or any external circumstance. The teachers role in goal setting and planning is to facilitate the childs success, identifying areas of difficulty and adjusting or modifying the plan before the child reaches frustration.

Goals and plans are not set in stone, we need to remain flexible, and if necessary, we change direction. If we need to modify the goal (i.e. to make it easier or to write an additional sub-step in-between), is important that we stay positive, explaining any change as a victory, not a defeat. It is a victory, because we (as in teacher with child) had the insight to realize that we needed to do something different. We tell the child that as long as she keeps working toward the goal and following a plan, she has not failed. Missing dates are not failure (set a new timeline); setbacks are not failure (focus on improvement); and obstacles are not failure (readjust the plan). Obstacles are challenges and they are our cue to use a different strategy or technique. If the child starts feeling discouraged and ready to give up, modify the level of difficulty, refocusing the child on an easier goal or step, and keep going on. The important thing here is always to keep children focused on their dreams and goals, never on disappointment and failure. Checklists are highly motivational. We explain the goal to the child as requiring a specific number of tasks; each task the child completes is one step closer toward the goal. We list the tasks, the child checks off each task she completes, and then we focus the childs effort on the next task in the list. Each task checked off helps build momentum to keep working on the goal (to start the next task in the list). Checklists help the child see her partial accomplishments, and they help in celebrating improvement; most importantly, which each task the child checks off that list, she becomes a more efficient and strategic learner.

Guidelines for Setting Goals


An inspirational quote in goal setting is Shoot for the moon. If you miss, youll still be in the stars. This quote adds to the last sentence in the previous section; everything children do to reach their goals makes them better students. Teachers need to guide children in setting up academic and behavior goals that are challenging, but not so difficult that children cannot succeed. To ensure success, some guidelines to follow are: Make sure the goal is specific. Telling the child Do your best, Be nice to your peers, or Try harder is not goal setting. Words such as best,

nice, and harder are so vague that chances are that the child and you have different definitions for each word, and different frames of reference. In addition, these vague words lack a behavior referent; the child will do best or try harder compared to what? Ambiguous language has no directive properties. More specific and action-oriented language is telling children, Focus on getting eight spelling words correct, For the next twenty-four hours you will refrain from cursing your peers, and Concentrate on beating your best time. The clearer our messages to children are, the clearer the outcome will be. More complex long-term goals specify who (participants), where (e.g. classroom, lunchroom, gym), when (timeline), and how (steps).

A specific goal is quantitative, measuring behavior and representing progress using benchmarks, percentages, timelines, or ratios. We can choose absolute levels (e.g. 80% correct) or a relative comparison like 20% more. Make sure the goal is realistic, that is, with planned or strategic effort and the right skills, the child can achieve the goal. If the child lacks the skills, we need to teach those skills first. For example, in a long-term anger management plan, we teach the child coping strategies such as breathing relaxation, visualizations, and positive self-talking. A realistic goal is a goal that the child truly believes he can reach; in other words, the child must be willing but also able to work. With motivation and the right skills, the goal can be both high and realistic. Skills and training influence motivation. Give the child ample time to learn the new skills and to practice those skills. Give the child enough time to reach the goal. To commit to a goal, the child must perceive it as personally relevant, that is, how the goal benefits him, the child, not how the goal benefits teachers or peers. If the child believes there is no personal benefit, he is not going to commit. For example, a sentence like, Your behavior does not let your peers concentrate will do little to motivate the child. We need to discuss

issues and concerns from the childs perspective. A better message would be, Your behavior does not let you concentrate in your work, which is sad because, when you put effort, you are capable of doing this work. The key lies in helping the child find a specific reason for wanting the target or goal. To ensure commitment, make the child an active participant in creating both the goal and the plan. Engagement with significant others strengthens commitment. The more a child likes and trusts the teacher, the stronger her compliance and commitment with self-improvement goals. Commitment leads to acceptance, or the child perceiving the goal as her own. Make sure the goal is achievable, working in figuring out ways to reach the final destination. Look for creative ways to keep the child motivated along the road. Always keep in mind that, after the child accepts and owns the goal, depending on how motivated she remains, that is how much effort she is going to invest. In simpler terms, motivation mediates effort. ***END OF THIS EXCERPT***

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