cstravato's Pre-k World

The life of a Teacher / Student / Mother


How I Can Improve My Conflict Resolution?



The number one thing I have learned about my communication style is I need to listen first, reflect on what is said, and then share my thoughts and opinions. I have come to the sad realization I am quick to react to positive and negative information. Although it may be perceive well to quickly react positively, it is much less often perceived well when I quickly react negatively. I have been making a conscious effort in conversations to slow down my reaction time. I have been trying hard to listen and be more respectful of the person speaking before I jump in with my thoughts and feelings.

Principle of NVC (nonviolent communication) has been helpful to keep in mind. I must shift my thinking to think needs, my needs and the needs of the people I am communicating with. I may have a need to express my thoughts and opinions on a topic being shared, but I must also take a moment and think about the other persons needs before I jump into the conversation. They may need to finish their thought before being questioned.   By taking a step back and thinking about needs, my responses will be more cooperative, conscious, and compassionate.

The 3R’s are described by Magda Gerber will also be very helpful to keep in mind while communicating with others. If I were presenting information to a group and especially a group I know is not going to receive the information well I would be nervous and would not like it if people did not show me the respect I deserve. So I will make more of an effort in my communications to remember to show respect for the other person or people and treat them as I would want them to treat me if I were the one presenting. I will also continue to work on being more responsive. I know my colleges well and feel very comfortable with them, but I do not always spend time watching for cues from body language, temperaments, and their needs. Being more in tune with the people we are communicating will have a huge impact on the quality of my future communications.

I truly do not want to others to just agree with me or shut down in a conversation because I spoke up. I want to communicate in a more appropriate manner and encourage others to also share their thoughts and opinions on the topic. I believe with this new learning I will be able to be a more effective communicator



Reflecting on my Communication Skills

Completing communication inventories on my anxiety, aggressiveness, and listening style gave me data to reflect on. So the good news is there was not a great deal of range in how I scored my self and how my husband and colleague scored me. So that means we are all in agreement I don’t like to speak in public but small groups or one on one interactions I enjoy with little anxiety. I am an action to content orientated listener and can be moderately aggressive in my communication style.

I was surprised that others saw me pretty much the same as I see my self in my ability to communicate. This was a good surprise, when I sent out these inventories I was a little worried I would be way off in my self-evaluation. Since my self-evaluation was very close to others evaluations of me it will be easy to focus my goals to improve my communication skills. I have been aware of areas I need to work on and this exercise made it even clearer.

I will try to keep this information in mind when I communication with family, friends, colleagues, administration, children, and children’s families.   It was interesting that people who see me in different situations scored me in the same ranges. I will use this feedback to create personal goals to support better communication in my personal and professional life.


Do I vary my communication style based on who I am communicating with?

This was an interesting question to think about. I will start with my communication style with my family. My family falls in what Louise Derman-Sparks described as part of the dominant culture. In that sense, we are very similar and I do not need to change my communication style to affectively communicate. However of my three siblings and myself we did not all accept the same stance on religious beliefs. I do find when I speak with my oldest brother and my youngest sister who do not believe in any religion or God I use a different style of communication. I try to be more aware of their non-verbal communications and I am more caution about saying too much. I am proud and confident in the religious choices I have made for myself, but I do not feel I need to make any one agree with me nor do I want to make them feel uncomfortable. I also change my communication style when I speak with my other brother who believes in God but has no religious affiliations at this time. I find it is more affective take a passive and empathic listening role in communicating with him because he is quick to argue and question. We have learned over the years that religion is not the best topic for us since we do not agree on many aspects and we do not communicate effectively. I could try harder to think about why he thinks so differently and be more understanding to improve our affective communication.

When it comes to communicating with my colleges at work, I find that there is not a wide range of ethic or cultural variation. However there are cultural differences in our confidence levels that affect how I communicate. I find when I am communicating with someone with a strong confidence level I can freely communicate my thoughts and opinions in a respectful manner and they can do the same with me. We may not always agree but we can openly share our thoughts and ideas and respect each other. When I speak with other colleges with of a less confident culture, I am more cautious in how much I share my opinions and thoughts. I find it more difficult to communicate with people who are not confident to be outspoken and share ideas even if others do not agree. I find I have to spend more time trying to read their body language and facial gestures to interpret their responses. I also find I need to check in more often to see if they are comfortable with how the conversation is going and if they have been offended by anything I have said or done.

I find that regardless of the group or cultural background of the people I communicate with there are some basic rules I follow. I try to treat others with kindness and respect and follow the Platinum rule. I try to be aware of non-verbal communication and verbal communication and adjust my communication style as needed. I try to be honest and clear in my opinions and intentions. I do not like to be disrespected or offended by others and I certainly do not want to disrespect or offend other.


An Exercise in Non-Verbal Communication


For this exercise I watch an episode in season three of Friday Night Lights. I have never watched any episodes in this series before this exercise. I watched once without sound and then once with sound. As I watch the episode, the first time without sound I took notes on assumptions I made of the story line, characters relationships, family dynamics, and the emotional connections based on the non-verbal cues. I then re-watched the episode with sound following through my notes to see how accurate my assumptions were.

This was a very interesting exercise I was surprised to find I was accurate with many of my assumptions of the relationships between characters, emotional battles, and family dynamics. I was even able to tell that one character was one of the football players mother but that she was newly back in his life. This was one I was not sure I had interpreted correctly just from non-verbal cues. I found the main character lives were easier to follow and keep track of the story and the emotions. The side stories that intertwined at time with the main characters where harder to follow without the back story of how they fit in.

I observed many non-verbal communication skills that helped me make accurate assumptions about the show. I found I focused a lot on people’s facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, eye focus, and proximity. I watch eyes get bigger, smaller, squinted, and squeezed. Each eye change told me a different message about he characters in the story. I observed arms and hands waving, pointing, hugging, twitching, pounding, and flailing about. These were clear indications of the characters emotions and the closeness of relationships. There were so many different types of verbal communication to observe. It is amazing how much you can figure out about a scene without hearing the verbal interactions, the non-verbal messages are loud and clear.

This made me really think about those times at school when staff knows the students can’t hear them and maybe they are having a conversation about a student. That student and others may not need to hear the conversation to pick up the gist of the meaning. We should always be aware of the messages our facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, and proximity give away. Knowing more about non-verbal communication can also be an asset in communicating with students and staff without verbal interactions. There are time when a student is not making the best choices and I will wait to catch the eye of that student or a staff member near by and gesture, to use a quieter voice, or to calm their body. I have also used non-verbal praise in the same way, I like to catch a student’s eye when they have done something great and are looking around to see if anyone notice and give them a smile, thumbs up, or a silent clap.   Non-verbal communication takes seconds to send a message but the affects are lasting.


My Communication Model


As I thought about all the people I know personally, professionally, and just acquaintances the person who keep coming to mind as a competent communicator is the instructional assistant in my classroom. This is only our second school year working to together and I have already learned so much from her about effective communication through her competent communication ability.  I have reflected often on my communication style and effectiveness. For this blog post I will refer to her as Sue.

Sue has an energetic, fun, caring personality, which I find is the beginning of her effective communication skills. She just walks into a room happy and excited to get started with whatever is to come, but not in an overwhelming annoying way. You know from the moment she enters you could go to her with anything and she would do her best to help you. She truly cares about children and supporting our classroom, which shows in her actions and words. She never misses a chance to greet a child, and make positive eye contact with staff. She always gets down to children eye level when she speaks and listens to them. She has a soft calm tone with children and adults. She tries to smile and stay positive throughout the day, some days are easier than others.

As I mentioned Sue is passionate about supporting our students and the classroom. She is very respectful of my position as the classroom teacher, which is reflected, in how she speaks and responds to me. Sue knows I always want staff to share questions, concerns, and ideas that would help our classroom run even better. Sue is the type that never stop noticing and thinking about how things can be tweaked for the better. She often will come to me and let me know she was thinking about a situation and either ask what I think and how should she handle it in the future or offers an idea she had. Sue is very accepting of feedback, but will continue to question a situation if she feels passionate about it. She is very good at taking a step back when we don’t see eye to eye and approaching it a different day or in a different way. I take a bit longer to process and reflect on a situation, I may need time to mull over an idea. I have unfortunately shot down some ideas which in hindsight I realized where great in there intension, they just needed a different solution. Sue may get frustrated in the moment, as can I that a solution was not found or I did not support her plan. However, she is able to move on and truly implement the plan I presented without verbal or nonverbal contempt for the idea. Sue will come back with feedback on how she felt it went and agree the plan worked or continue to suggest tweaking.   Sue is passionate and confident in her thoughts and ideas and has gained my respect. She has helped me reflect on my communications with others.

We collaborate like this daily, it is a back and forth communication. We both know neither one of us have all the answers; some days are more effective than others. When two passionate people work in close proximity daily there are bound to be clashes of personality and ideas. We must take the time to listen and collaborate on the best ways to support our classroom. I am just so thankful to have an instructional assistant that is just as passionate about children as I am. Whether I agree or disagree with an idea Sue has I always know it comes from a place a caring and a passion for children.