Teach with Trust
The first subject of my TPR system covers the communication style of teaching. To teach is to communicate from a position of knowledge to a place of ignorance. That definition of teaching doesn’t add practical value without some explanation. So, let us begin with the term communication. Most of us walk through life, thinking that to communicate something is to send the message out. However, that is not enough to encapsulate real communication. If we hope to teach with trust, we need more.
For example, if we think that communication is merely sending a message out, then I invite you to consider the shipwrecked pirate. He scrounges for some paper and promptly writes his coordinates down. He then pops that paper into a bottle, corks it, and tosses the message out to the sea. Now I ask you, with whom did he communicate with if no one ever finds that or any of his bottles? The answer is he didn’t communicate with anyone other than perhaps himself.
Teaching and communication, in general, needs an audience. Your message has to be received to achieve communication. In teaching, your message must be received and then acted upon. The way most teachers ensure that information has been through formal testing. That doesn’t necessarily always work in parenthood, and it doesn’t always work for formal education either. Ask anyone the plot of Mice and Men from my grade, and I doubt more than a few from the class could tell you. Yet, we all had exams on the book in 11th grade literature.
It is our nature to study for the test. It is by far the most efficient use of time when you consider that most of what we learn in school simply won’t matter in our careers. Unfortunately for the parent, most of what we teach is essential not just for jobs but for life. We have to make it stick. So, we need to analyze our teaching methods to make sure that we are communicating. That way rescue comes after sending that bottle out to the ocean.Unfortunately for the parent, most of what we teach is essential not just for jobs but for life. Click To Tweet
Our Approach to Communicate
To approach teaching, we return to our definition. We look at three things, our relationship to the subject matter, the student’s relationship to the same subject, and the student-teacher relationship.
Our Relationship to the Subject Matter
When we teach, how familiar we are with the subject determines how we communicate it. If you are an expert in an area, you speak with authority. When you understand a topic, then we tend to describe it as more of a guide. The difference between the expert and the guide is that the expert says, “You should,” and the guide says, “You could.” The guide has referenced, and used the subject matter enough times to understand and apply it to his or her life, yet lacks the experience to apply it to yours. The final way we teach is from the field or in the middle of learning or are only familiar with the subject. That is when we field questions and then research the answers in the moment. You will hear the phrase, “I don’t know. Let me look that up,” from someone in the field.
Most fathers I have encountered work from a position of authority. It is easy when they are little to know what happens when they touch the hot stove. We are experts at walking, eating, and talking. Those most elusive things our children try to understand aren’t just easy to us; they’re natural. The trick becomes knowing when to switch your tone or your method of teaching. Remember, the goal of teaching is to communicate, which has to be received and then acted upon.It takes humility with ourselves and our own understanding of the subject matter to tailor the information to the situation with our children. Click To Tweet
If we keep our goal of teaching as communication, then we can learn how to switch up our methods as the situation arises. Trust me. There will be situations where you are speaking from the field and googling answers on the fly. It takes humility with ourselves and our own understanding of the subject matter to tailor the information to the situation with our children. Fathers know that, but remembering to be humble and having the humility to achieve the goal is usually a different story. When we keep the purpose of communication in mind, acting humble doesn’t matter so much.
The student’s relationship to the Subject Matter
The next part of learning how to communicate considers the student and their relationship to the subject matter. How people receive information is often determined by how familiar they are with the subject. For example, telling my wife I am going to Friday morning prayer breakfast, is a reminder. However, if I told her I need to go to Las Vegas next week, she would be shocked. The first she is familiar with, I do it almost every week. The second (I am not going to Vegas next week) is so far off the radar that how she receives that communication vastly different. It is the same when we teach. A student who has never learned anything about math will find addition difficult. An engineering student in college expects to find the derivative of equations and apply that derivative to an algorithm or mechanical process.
Teaching a child
The younger the child, generally, the less familiar they are with almost everything. The exception is that toy that you thought would never be where it is; my son is always right about that. The first thing you learn when you interact with children is how much they don’t know. You quickly go from teaching big concepts to 1 step, not even steps.
Re-learning how you learned information is incredibly valuable to our own thinking, and it also makes us better communicators. We learn how to keep things simple. We build a pyramid of steps that our students can climb rather than the rock wall; they have no hope of scaling. There is nothing wrong with the rock wall for those trained in mountain climbing, but for the rest of us, we need things broken down to our level of understanding.We build a pyramid of steps that our students can climb rather than the rock wall; they have no hope of scaling. Click To Tweet
Our relationship with the student
The relationship with the student changes how the student learns. The best way I can describe it is that the relationship changes the setting. For example, you learn from your friends while sitting on the couch, riding in the car, or perhaps just at school together. You learn from a professor while he/she teaches from in front of a class. Then if you have a good relationship with the teacher, you learn differently during office hours. Notice the feel and the different locations of the friend and professor. They change based on the relationship, which also changes the physical and mental location. Communication sometimes alters slightly and sometimes a lot dependent on a variety of factors in the setting. Let me explain it from a fatherhood perspective, and I think you will better grasp the idea
The Setting of Fatherhood
Ok, so let’s look at the setting, and how we communicate from a particular case we might all be familiar with, the time-out. So let’s say the offense is my son hit his little sister because she was playing with his Legos.
Now at first, I go full scary dad mode. He is not allowed to hit anyone, so he goes into time-out. While in scary dad mode, I make myself bigger and my voice deeper and louder to be scary. I do this to add authority and seriousness to this infraction. As he sits in time-out though, I am quietly and gently, but earnestly coaching my daughter how to behave without instigating next time. She needs to understand that she had a role in this event. It may not have been the breaker of rules, but she did instigate the event.
As I walk over to my son, I am still big. “What did you do wrong?” I demand. He answers weakly, knowing he doesn’t stand a chance against scary dad. Then I change the setting entirely in a split second. I go from scary dad to the dad who cares about what and how I feel. The setting communicates that when I sit on the floor with him. I usually sit him in my lap so that we have to make eye contact. It forces him to learn to face conflict with bravery and responsibility. I also want him to know way down deep that he is good, and I love and care about his reasoning for the wrong act.
We talk about it, and because today as I write this, we are in the COVID-19 quarantine, I learn he misses his friends, and his little sister has been all up in his business, not just all day or all week, but all month. He is done and needs a break.Notice the feel of the different locations and postures being taken not just in what I am sending, but also what my audience is sending. Click To Tweet
Review what happened
So what all got communicated here by the setting of myself and my son. Well, the first thing he understands is that hitting is an unacceptable response because I went big and scary. We aren’t going to do that. The next thing he learns by my willingness to change height is that I do care about his feelings. I care about his side of the story. He receives rights and dignity even if he put in time-out.
The point is to learn what he had going on inside him, and then I can help him be a better person. Maybe it is by removing a stressor for today, or perhaps it is by coaching him. Either way, I am teaching him a myriad of things that can only be taught from how I hold myself and where he is located. The setting is a powerful and often overlooked communication tool. For example, the setting is very different when a father is standing or when a father is holding a child in his lap.
There are so many tools at your disposal and so many considerations to take when we attempt to communicate. Knowing what you know and what your student knows is the first step and often the hardest. Then you can create an environment where the message is sent, received, and finally acted upon in the manner intended. That is teaching. Understanding teaching is the first step to gaining the trust you need to succeed and engage your students, your children.You can create an environment where the message is sent, received, and finally acted upon in the manner intended. Click To Tweet
The next article will put this information into the practical business context. If you want to get the updates or receive reminders for when I go even deeper into the methodology of teaching with trust, subscribe below.