The Internet and social networks are often full of emotional expressions like “Our teacher is a brainless fool”, “My teacher constantly oppresses me”, “What to do if the teacher is an idiot?”, “Our teacher just wants to mock us” and other emotional responses from students who are particularly pleased with the educational process.
There are also examples of frustration with one’s role as a student, such as: “I’m just a moron compared to the others” or “There are only a few favorites of the teachers, they don’t learn anything, but they pass everything with flying colors.”
Eric Berne’s wonderful work, People Who Play Games, describes the four transactions that underlie all communication shown in the figure.
These behavioral strategies can also be traced in the communications between students and instructors to reach a position that ensures effective communication in the learning process.
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Strategies of Behavior in Communication with Instructors
Position #1. “I as a student am not okay for me – You as an instructor are not okay for me.”
As a rule, this position is based on students’ low self-esteem in terms of their abilities (“I’m not smart enough”, “I can’t understand the study material”, “I’m unlucky, I’m bound to get the hardest ticket on the exam”, “Why did I get into this university”), as well as limiting beliefs that an instructor is a problematic person and there is no point in asking for any support from him or her (“If I ask a question, the instructor will raise my voice”, “If I ask for an extra attempt to pass the exam, the instructor will slam the door and will not talk to me”).
The result of this position is a fruitless (zero) result in addressing current issues, it is difficult for students to overcome communication barriers – to agree to retake the exam, to justify their point of view on a particular issue so they need to solve problems by themselves and use excel help online, For example, to prove themselves as a speaker. And even if there is an attempt to start a conversation with the instructor, the fear of rejection is so strong that there are not enough emotional resources to communicate: the student begins to stumble, get confused and mentally dream of leaving the place of shame as quickly as possible.
Position #2. “I as a student am not okay for me – You as a teacher are okay for me.”
“Thou shalt not make an idol of thyself,” says the famous commandment. In the learning process there are situations when the student imagines the teacher as an all-knowing guru, absolutely right always and in everything.
When controversial issues arise in such a position, it is difficult for him to argue his position on a particular issue, although there is a need for it, based on knowledge and his own experience (“Who am I to argue with the professor? It is better to keep silent, to agree, because most likely he is right”).
A limitation of this position is the avoidance of interaction with the teacher and the non-realization of one’s abilities in the learning process.
After all, who knows, perhaps your point of view is a breakthrough in science. And if you live in fear of receiving criticism from your environment, no one will know about this discovery.
Position #3. “I as a student am fine for myself – You as a teacher are not fine for me.”
The position is accompanied by the belief that “no matter how I behave in the learning process (skipping classes, sleeping in class, sitting on the Internet during practicals) the instructor is obliged to adjust to my behavior and give me credit or take the exam on the first try.
The teacher is obliged to be always in a good mood, to skip jokes about me; to understand that besides studies I have a private life; to accept that his subject is not particularly necessary to me and that I do not want to study. And if he doesn’t do that, then he becomes a rank below me.
A limitation of this position is getting rid of interaction with the instructor (“Why to talk to him, he’s an idiot”) instead of trying to negotiate.
As a rule, to restore balance in communication the instructor intuitively tries to return to an equal position with the student: there is a transition to the student’s personality (touches the level of mental abilities in the conversation); he/she does not make contact and does not allow correcting the situation (for example, to retake the exam).
Position #4. “I as a student am fine for myself – You as a teacher are fine for me.”
This position is the most effective and efficient in teacher-student communication. Communication, in this case, is based on the desire to agree and mutual respect.
Let’s list a few recommendations for getting into this position of a healthy student-teacher relationship from the other three transactions.
- Take responsibility only for your behavior. You happen to have to miss class due to some circumstance. Ask yourself the question, “What can I do in the current situation?” It is not necessary to berate yourself, nor is it necessary to expect praise for this action from the teacher. Conscious behavior implies that there is always room for agreement. Make clear your responsibility in your conversation with the teacher (“I understand that I should have attended the lectures, but……”, “I understand that I don’t have enough time to prepare, so I can use algebra help or I can …”).
- Keep in mind that the other person’s view of the situation may be different from your view. If higher mathematics is an unimportant and unnecessary subject for you, for your teacher it may be a matter of life. And any attempts to show even thought of disrespect for the subject may be aggressively received by the teacher.
- Show the teacher that you are interested in mastering the subject (“It is important to me to master this subject, please give me more time”) or specify what knowledge will be enough to satisfy you (“I understand that higher mathematics is a very important subject, but I already work in tourism and plan to do it further. Can you tell me what topics I need to master to pass the exam with a grade of “good”?)
- The actions and words of another person, no matter how strange they may seem to you, make sense to that person. There is a reason for every word and action spoken. If a teacher is uncooperative, in a bad mood, it may have nothing to do with the learning process. A teacher is a person like you and he or she may have family problems, health problems, or financial difficulties which may result in negative emotions.
- Try to ask the reason for his/her state of mind (“Is everything alright with you? Are you comfortable talking now?”). The teacher’s awareness that he or she is genuinely interested in the situation will help create a comfortable emotional environment for the dialogue.
- Accept yourself in a situation of error. Every behavior represents the best choice available at the time. If you happened to be rude to a teacher, accept yourself in the situation and think about how to fix it now. You had your reasons for doing so.
- There are more possibilities in any situation than meets the eye. Try to analyze your behavior and traditional ways of solving academic problems (keeping silent, avoiding a conversation in case of criticism, no longer contacting the teacher if you refuse to retake the exam and others). Play researcher: observe other students’ ways of dealing with problems similar to yours. Take note of ways in which they were able to negotiate easily with the teacher even in the case of absences and superficial knowledge of the subject. Expanding your tools for solving difficult learning problems will give you confidence.
Flexibility is the key to effective communication. Teachers vary in temperament and character, and they can have different types of dialogue and be open or closed to communication. Psychological knowledge can help you.
Knowledge of the peculiarities of your behavior and the behavior of different personality types will help you to quickly adapt to the situation and bring communication to the level of “I am fine” – “You are fine”, to that position of balance, which is the basis for achieving the best results.