Clear verbal communication is perhaps the most critical aspect of being a teacher. So much so in fact that nonverbal communication often gets eclipsed. Nonverbal communication impacts the tone of the classroom and the way that the class receives information. Great speakers (who oftentimes also happen to be great teachers) pay careful attention to their body language and how their nonverbal signals communicate important messages to their audience. As a teacher, it is not necessary to obsess over every detail of nonverbal communication; however, it is helpful to be aware of how body language can affect the classroom.
There are a few common nonverbal signals that can contribute to a negative classroom tone. Crossing one’s arms is a near surefire way to communicate feelings of dissatisfaction and annoyance. Squaring one’s body up to the audience, however, is a great way to demonstrate openness. Facing the whiteboard while talking, or staying behind a desk for the entirety of the class time contributes to a standoffish or negative atmosphere. Additionally, posture is a crucial aspect of body language. “Leave your problems at the door” is a common saying, and it can be difficult to execute, especially when personal life problems arise. One way to more effectively implement this piece of advice is to focus on posture. Rolling one’s shoulders back and taking deep breaths is an effective way to calm the body down and convey a sense of positivity.
Another critical piece of nonverbal communication is voice. The way that something is said is often just as important as what is said. Very few people like or appreciate a lecture given in a monotonous or disinterested tone, but people tend to pay more attention to an enthusiastic and passionate speaker. A teacher’s tone in the classroom has the potential to make or break their lecture.
In addition to modeling positive nonverbal communication, it is also beneficial to teach students how to communicate positive body language on their own. Lessons on nonverbal communication can be woven into many pre-existing lesson plans. Very few people enjoy public speaking, but encouraging students to practice speaking in front of their peers will allow them to be more comfortable later on. Most careers require public speaking in some capacity, so building foundational speaking skills will doubtless benefit students. Making students aware of nonverbal signals, such as arm crossing, fidgeting, and rocking back and forth, can be an excellent way to help them break bad nonverbal habits.
Nonverbal communication is an integral part of teaching and public speaking in general. Being aware of and then adjusting certain habits and tendencies can drastically change the tone of the class and even help motivate students. Additionally, assisting students in recognizing their nonverbal practices helps prepare them for future schooling and careers in which public speaking will most definitely be a component. Nonverbal communication is an important aspect of classroom success and can have a positive impact if utilized correctly.