Today the Classroom, Tomorrow the World

photo_cvr_earth1_hrIt is our students’ oyster.  They have it in their hands.  Which ever saying one chooses to use, our current students may one day change the world.  I tell my students they have time to develop their dreams and find what they love so that they can institute change.  For some, their dreams include stability and benefits; for others, their dreams are composed of making changes that can cross borders and improve lives across the hemispheres. It becomes my job to show them how they can prepare during their junior year of AVID.

This blog has been inundated with all things AVID, but this is only because I believe that college is for all students and student loans are not the only way to achieve a degree.  With that being said, our AVID elective team has a great deal of curriculum dealing with critically reading, effectively writing, collaboration, inquiry, and organization.  However, some of our hidden curriculum deals with how students communicate and interact in many discourses.

As Deborah Cameron discussed on adults learning language, “communication is emerging as the supreme value of language teaching, for first language users, as well as second language learners, then it is crucial for language teaching professionals to engage with questions about what kinds of communication are valuable” (Cameron 81).  As the corporate world realizes that communication is of the utmost importance, we are attempting to instill some communication behaviors that we can make into habit for our students.  Statements by Doreen Starke-Meyerring, show the need for our students to understand communication, “Regardless of whether professional communicators directly produce communication services or communicate as part of their work in other services,  during the next few decades, they will likely experience the impact of global trade…” (Starke-Meyerring 473).  With that being said, I want my students to be adequate speakers by the time the global market hits them.

To begin, we require our AVID students to dress professionally every Wednesday.  We explain to students that their outward appearance “speaks” to people in career fields and scholarship panels.  To make matters more difficult for our students, we are meticulous in how we critique them.  We stress on the boys to iron their clothing, shave their faces, and to make sure their outfits are not too big.  For our young ladies, we are constantly stressing modesty, our saying is, “if you look like you are going on a date, you’re doing it wrong.”  During professional dress Wednesday, my classes are in tutoring groups with a college tutor.  When a student stands in front of his or her group and explains his or her problem I monitor their posture, and what their posture tells a group.  I feel that when a person is slouched and eyes wondering about the room, it communicates that the speaker is indifferent to what is happening.  I have mimicked how students present without telling them what I was doing, and they asked if I was sick.  Therefore, I ask students to present their information in a way that engages the audience, not question whether they are nauseous.

Another form of communication I work on with my students is the power of the first impression.  This may sound cheesy, but I teach my students how to shake hands.  This seems to disagree with some ideas of effective communication, not every culture shakes hands upon meeting.  However, students need a foundation of how adults interact with each other, once they are acquainted with some forms, then they can transition into the global community.  When we first practice, students seem to not be able to stop giggling.  Then we discuss what that communicates to the person they are meeting, they soon realize that the giggling can make them appear as not taking the situation seriously, or that the giggling might make the person feel insecure.  It takes awhile, but we go through eye contact, facial expressions, and pressure when shaking hands, and soon enough, my students are experts at executing a solid introduction.  I received my proof when my husband stopped by my classroom to being me lunch and met one of my AVID students making up an assignment.  When I introduced my student to my husband she immediately reached out her hand and exchanged a greeting.  At home that night, my husband told me how impressed he was with my student.  He does a fair amount of interviewing at his business, and many young hopefuls cannot properly greet a stranger.

Lastly, the one verbal communication technique that I attempt to convey is to move my students away from fillers.  Students that abuse the words, “like,” “um,” “uh” and “actually”.  I know that when we communicate, some fillers occur.  Yet, it is distracting to listen to a presentation of, “Well, uummmmmm like…” When ever students present any information, we all try to avoid using the fillers, it takes practice, but my students understand that the more prepared they are for what they will be discussion, the less fillers they utilize.

To summarize, are my AVID students close to being prepared for globalization?  No, probably not.  However, I know that my students are learning important verbal and non-verbal habits of communication that will assist them in their future interactions with the outside world.  Judging from the little feedback I have been given from the business world, my students are ahead of some of the competition currently in the corporate world.

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9 thoughts on “Today the Classroom, Tomorrow the World”

  1. Christa, I have so loved following your blog these last several weeks. It has been such a delight! I could definitely appreciate your post here on communication and interaction as it relates to AVID students mastering the “first impression” in all of various hidden norms – the hand shake, posture, appearance and dress, speaking with confidence. I laughed, too – “when the global market hits them” – I would argue that it already has, so we’re working to prepare them to be “adequate speakers” as they come to own and shape and further that market as the new leaders and participants of the world. 
    You brought in your course readings to support your thoughts here well – smoothly integrated and clearly related to your coming topics of discussion. I might only suggest placing one or two additional references in each of the latter body paragraphs; as of now, the outside support is mainly used as introductory paragraph to the topics you discuss, and it might enhance the topics more directly if the supporting research were explicitly tied to each notion as it exists in its own paragraph (ie of the dress nice Wednesday, of the first impression, etc.). But just a thought. 
    I LOVED your reflection on how you use their giggling at hand-shaking as an opportune moment – a “teachable” moment – to discuss how that behavior could be communicated to the person with whom they are shaking hands. I am positive that that was an extremely enlightening experience for your students, and certainly apparent in your husband’s experience of meeting one of them. And boy – are those “fillers” you described a serious problem these days. It immediately brought to mind a piece performed by one of favorite slam poets, Taylor Mali, called “Speak with Conviction.” (Available all over the internet, but here’s one link: http://www.wimp.com/speakconviction/) He laments the generational trend toward losing conviction in what we have to say, trying to rely on uncertainty and bandwagons to express our opinions and beliefs. He is also a teacher, so he also discusses experiences with his students in this topic and how he works to help them recover. It’s a beautiful piece, and one your AVID kiddos might really appreciate. 
    Again, thanks so much for sharing this blog – it was so much fun reading and responding this semester!

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    1. Hi Brandi,

      Thank you so much for the link! I have never seen that video before, and I stopped several times to take notes. I especially enjoyed the part part that said, “where are the limbs on which we used to walk?” I am going to use that in my classroom. Also, thank you for pointing out my limited research in my body paragraphs, I hadn’t realized it until I read your post, now I don’t understand how I didn’t see it before.

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  2. Christa,

    One of my favorite elements of globalization is the day to day ways in which one can improve the way they display themselves to others. Often times, I think students and employees lose sight of the real reason we embrace globalization: we want to include all cultures while still recognizing the necessity of maintaining a professional and approachable demeanor. With this in mind, I think the teaching practices you exercise in class are a great way to begin integrating students into the real, working world.

    First of all, your structure and approach to the topic is fantastic. Not only does your supporting evidence further your point, but it helps frame your points for your audience. My only concern in this regard is that the quotes you cited primarily fall in the beginning of your blog. Perhaps it would be useful in using another quote in the other sections of your blog. This would allow readers to see the importance of body language and how it correlates with successful communication practices.

    Another aspect I liked was your use of real-life experiences. In some cases, applying your experiences to the blog prompt can be difficult. However, your approach allows your audience to trust you and recognize that your are experienced within your field. This is demonstrated by your personal experience that you took time to explain in your body paragraphs.

    The only other suggestion I have would be to look at editing the clip art you used in the beginning. Although it is better than having no images, I think it would highly beneficial if you provided other diagrams or images. One idea that sounds particularly useful is a photo of a Powerpoint or document that you might use to teach this information. Although you might not have an entire class devoted to handshakes, showing how you teach globalization would help contextualize your post even further and would allow audiences to view you as a trusted source for teaching advice.

    Great Job, Christa! These are some small changes to an otherwise great blog. When reading through your blog, these were just some of my immediate concerns.

    PS: You have a small typo in your introduction: “I tell my students have have time to develop their dreams and find what they love so that they can institute change.” Just make sure to go back and proofread one more time in case I missed anything else.

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    1. Hi Kendal,

      Thank you for the heads-up. When writing the blogs, I often get into a stream of conscious and I realize that I need to be implementing more of the reading. Also, thank you for the typo, if I had a nickle for every typo, I could buy a mansion!

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  3. Thank you so much for the insights. I am really interested in AVID and I wish we had a program where I live. I also really like when you say, “Another form of communication I work on with my students is the power of the first impression.” I am a big fan of promoting this idea to my students and I try to tell them how often their written word is the first impression they give.

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  4. Hi Christa,

    My favorite part of this post is the paragraph on nonverbal communication! That’s so interesting (and funny and kind of awesome) that when you mimicked your students’ posture they thought you were sick. I bet your feedback on how they are addressing the class does them a lot of good.

    It seems like AVID does an awesome job preparing students for the “discourse of professional adults.” My only thought for connecting this post back even more to globalization would be to include some examples of when/where your students will encounter globalization after AVID. Have you been teaching their long enough that you know any graduates who have found jobs in the business world?

    Thanks for the insightful post! It made me think of a recent Utne article that I read, about how this generation of college students as a whole is failing to meet the initial communication requirements of many employers.

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  5. Well, over this class I have learned a lot about your AVID program and really appreciate what it does for your students. It reminds me a lot of actually what my Speech & Debate team did for me. We had to wear power suits and be professional, carry brief cases, etc. Even though I joined team debate literally because my friend was in it and I had nothing better to do, I still learned a lot and still use a lot of the professional tactics that I learned there. It really boosted my confidence to know those things. That is exactly what I think teaching your students to greet adults is doing. That first impression is all confidence after that and the will be treated more seriously just off of something so simple.

    It is really too bad that the program is something students have to choose to be apart of. I would think that students who valued the AVID program enough to be apart of it would be the very ones who would already be college bound and have their ducks in a row. It is those who do not have familiarity in that aspect, for example may not have a parent who went to college, that need that kind of program most. That was our school counselor’s job and it really did not seem to be effective, but also, it is not fair to lay that on one person for all students. Teachers should be helping prep students with information, as well.

    The only other thing I think is important is starting students early, in freshman year. You mentioned Juniors in your blog so I do not know if that is their starting point or if they can start earlier but I think I was a junior before I was really taught the importance of grades and extra curricular activities when it comes to college. I had wasted two previous years just floating by. Neither of my parents went to college and one did not even go to high school so I had absolutely no idea because they had absolutely no idea and my school resources were limited.

    Good luck to you with this amazing program! I know it will be an experience these students will carry with them forever.

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  6. Hi Christa,
    Your latest post was very inspiring. I loved the beginning where you gave analogies on the world being in the hands of our youth. One comment would be to give the definition or explain to the readers what AVID is. Some may not have been following you throughout the semester. Other than that, I really enjoyed hearing what you do to prepare the students for the future. Great job!
    Suzanne

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  7. Christa,
    I am going to miss reading your blog posts immensely! I have learned so much about AVID over the last few weeks and I really think that every community should offer a similar program. I worked in an IB (international business) approved school and I found that while there were goals set in place, what you have done with students in your program provides much more structure, discipline, globalization and encourages a better understanding of the college and business world. I love that you suggest that by learning to properly greet strangers students can then move on to understanding how to greet strangers from other cultures without being disrespectful. I have loved following your posts! Good luck!

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