All posts by Katy Sutton

Global Communicators Whether We Like It or Not

As a teacher, my audience is most often my students. Until now, I have rarely taken into consideration global communication when writing my lesson plans and assignments. However, considering the world my students are entering into, global communication is something that many of them are going to have to participate in. Part of my job is to prepare my 12th graders for the world beyond high school. As they get older, many jobs look for skilled communicators, and much of communication happens digitally in today’s society. As Dorreen Starke-Meyerring says, the internet is an “inherently global” network (487). Therefore, preparing my students to be global communicators should be part of my job and a skill which I consider when teaching my students how to listen, speak, read, and write.

Proving to students through job ads that effective communication is a necessary skill makes the necessity of the skills they are (hopefully) going to learn or continue to shape throughout the year undeniable. Professionally, Starke-Meyerring states that “They need to be able to collaborate effectively and ethically in global networks, using global network technologies to build trusting relationships and partnerships” (476). There is worth in these skills, and we can prove that to students through this quote and back it up with listed qualifications for job opportunities. How do we do approach this, though?

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Social Media as a Teaching Tool?

When I asked my colleagues how they use social media as a teacher, I got responses like “I don’t,” and “Ummmm well, I use the website that the school told us we have to use.” However, I got some more enthusiastic approaches to the issue with “I use it everyday! I send my students to my Pinterest page to find the links to videos they have to watch,” and “We have a class Facebook page where students have discussions on the themes of the current unit.” As technology becomes increasingly intertwined in our everyday lives, our students are no exception. In order to reach them (our audience) we need to utilize social media to increase our communication with them as well as their communication with each other. As Christopher Swan writes about how to connect globally on social media in order to “Dissolve boundaries” and “Allow global inclusion,” we can use social media as teachers to accomplish those same goals on a smaller scale.

One teacher who uses Facebook to get her students having classroom and real world relevant discussions said that by using a forum where students are able to think through their contribution to the discussion before putting it out there has allowed for more involvement from some of the quieter students, the ones who don’t tend to speak out in class discussions. It also validates the students’ ideas when they get “likes” on their post. She did say that this sometimes poses a problem when students get competitive about who got the most “likes.” “It’s a learning process for all of us, but I think overall the results have been positive because we’re allowing them to take education into their own world, where they are comfortable,” said Debbie.

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Teaching (Writing or Anything Else) Through Experience

How do you teach something without first knowing the subject inside and out?

Answer: not very well.

As a 12th grade English teacher, it is part of my job to teach my students effective communication, both written and verbal, as they prepare to enter the collegiate or working world. In order to teach my students how to communicate, I need to first understand the complexities of it myself and then use that information to communicate effectively to them. Bazerman writes that when we take part in a certain academic conversation or text, we “take on the mood, attitude, and actional possibilities of that place…do the kinds of things you do there, think the kinds of things you think there, feel the kind of way you feel there, satisfy what you can satisfy there, be the kind of person you can become there,” (13). He describes communication as a social construct, a community to voluntarily engage in and become  a part of. I need to get my students there. I need to look at who my audience is and prepare them for the type of communication they are about to engage in–and from there I can teach them to do the same with their audiences and utterances.

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Attempting Contact With Today’s High Schoolers

On a typical day I wake up, go to work, where I spend quite a bit of time talking to other English teachers, some time talking to teachers of other disciplines and other school staff members, and majority of my time conversing with my 16-18 year old students. Then I go to the gym where I don’t talk to many other LA Fitness members, yet I still feel connected to them as we’re all there battling through pain in order to be healthy and fit. After that, I go home where I talk with my roommates (one middle school science teacher, the other a sales representative for a lucrative internet company) about our day, and then at least once per week I head to a craft brewery where I get greeted by the familiar staff and enjoy a cold beer. Each of these different communities and audiences or community members signify a Discourse with a capital “D” as defined by James Gee (13). These are the groups within which we act and communicate in a certain way, making us a member of that Discourse. We are recognizably a teacher or a student or a gym member.

Within many of the Discourses to which we belong, there is not only verbal but also written communication. I write and read emails all day long, in correspondence with parents, students, administrators, and other teachers. My roommates and I leave notes for each other and send text messages. I leave reviews for the breweries I frequent, recommending people to try them out. In each of these discourse communities, knowing who my target audience is key when using written communication. If I were to write emails to parents using the same style and informal language that I use when I text my roommates, I doubt the response would be at all favorable.

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A High School Teacher’s Thoughts on Communication

My name is Katy Sutton, and I am a high school English teacher of four years. I’m an avid writer and reader in my free time as well. This blog is meant to give some ideas and thoughts on the way we communicate with one another, but specifically with high school students. Communication is constantly changing, and I hope to give some insight and information to aid high school teachers in communicating with their students effectively.

As an educator in a public high school, communication is so very key on many levels. To build relationships and relay information, various methods and techniques must be used to reach students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and community members. The school district that I work in is unique in the amount of diversity that we have in our student population, which translates to our parent and community populations. The students we teach range from homeless students (3% of our student body) to students whose parents make millions per year. Many of these teenagers come from homes where there is not much support or accountability, but there are of course the exceptions.  As for our staff on campus, through a recent poll, it was found that more than 40 of our district staff are alumni of our high school. We have a lot of school pride and committed teachers, but we have also been experiencing frequent administration changes, resulting in large turnovers in our staff. Continue reading A High School Teacher’s Thoughts on Communication