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The fourth element of synergetic teaching is communication, which Charles believes is second only to 

trust in its importance. “To a surprising degree,” he says,  “how you communicate determines your effectiveness as a teacher. Relationships are built on communication and easily destroyed by it” (48-49). He stresses that two-way information exchanges between teacher and student (49):


  • Promote learning
  • Lead to deeper knowledge
  • Improve relationships
  • Energize the teaching process

However, Charles notes, “In most cases, teachers do too much imparting and not enough exchanging” (49).


Seven gears of communication

To keep classroom communication running like clockwork, Charles proposes maintaining seven gears:


  1. Listening: When you are speaking with someone, make them the prime focus of your attention (51).

  1. Understanding: Try to see the other person’s point of view. Listen within the student’s frame of reference rather than from your frame of reference as an adult teacher (52).  


  1. Reacting helpfully: Pay attention to body language and tone of voice to discern the underlying messages and needs behind the speaker’s words; respond to those needs (53). 


  1. Encouraging: Continually ask yourself, “How can I be most helpful to my students right now?” (56).   


  2. Persuading: Avoid arguing. Use “I” messages to communicate concerns. 


  3. Disagreeing productively: Focus on the problem at hand, not on past difficulties. Remain 

    honest and open. Look for areas of agreement. Take charge of negative emotions; remain  calm and objective. If your emotions prove too strong, admit that “now is not a good time to discuss this” and schedule a meeting for a later time.   

  4. Resolving problems amicably: Help craft a win-win solution; solicit possible solutions from others in a class meeting. Allow students to save face. Present solutions as if they are 

    joint agreements.  


Congruent communication

Charles points to Haim Ginott’s congruent communication as a method for correcting misbehavior while maintaining student dignity. Congruent communication is “communication that is harmonious with students’ feelings about situations and themselves” (56). To achieve congruence, our communication should address the situation, rather than the character of the student. We should avoid comments that (56): 


  • Label students
  • Ask rhetorical “why” questions 
  • Give moralistic lectures  
  • Make caustic or sarcastic remarks
  • Deny students’ feelings
  • Demand students’ cooperation
  • Show a loss of temper or self-control 

Roadblocks to communication

In a 2005 article on congruent communication, West Chester University professor Dave Brown noted that “students will regularly make ill-mannered comments. These social mistakes are a part of young adolescents’ growth as they experiment in searching for their own identity. The way that educators react to these frequent miscues impacts their relationships with students ... Overly punitive actions exacerbate negative feelings between students and teachers” (12). 

Citing Thomas Gordon’s T.E.T.: Teacher Effectiveness Training, Charles identifies several roadblocks to effective communication that teachers should avoid (57): 


  • Giving orders: "Get your name on that paper and get to work." 

  • Warning: “I’m telling you for the last time to stop that, or I’m  sending you to the principal.” 
  • Preaching: “If you don’t learn how to do this, you’ll never get into a good college.”


  • Advising: “When I was your age, I used to study two hours every night. You should try that.”


  • Criticizing: “You're being so foolish to do it that way.”


  • Questioning: “What’s wrong with you?”

Structures for communication

Much of the communication between teachers and students occurs in a non-structured way through the normal course of classroom interactions. In addition, four types of structured communication can help achieve specific objectives (60-61):


  1. Giving students personal attention: Validates students and helps them feel noticed and valued. 


  2. Reviewing feelings about learning: Provides insights to refine and improve lessons by learning what students like and dislike about instructional activities. 


  3. Discussing class business and concerns: Enables students to express concerns about the class, raise issues, and solve problems. 


  4. Informing parents about class activities and progress: A phone call, web site, or newsletter helps create positive relationships with parents and enhances your reputation. 

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