Have you stopped to think about how students perceive not only what and how we say things in the classroom, but also our body language? There are cultural expectations and misunderstandings that can occur. Additionally, our body language can misinterpret our intentions and create obstacles to their success in our classes.
I recently spoke with a student who was upset that one of his teacher’s was very rude to him. Of course, I asked him what had happened. He said that his teacher snaps his fingers at him to get him to focus and do his work. He found the teacher’s behavior to be unacceptable. As we talked, he told me that at home he had been taught that you only snap your fingers when you call a dog. It is not used with people. If you snap your fingers at a person, that is seen as being highly disrespectful.
This made me think. I wonder how many other nonverbal cues we give students that are misinterpreted. If you point to a student, will he feel disrespected? If you stand too close to a student in order to talk, will that student feel uncomfortable? Of course, this varies by student and situation, but it’s a good reminder. As teachers we are being observed and judged by our students every day. We need to ensure that our students are getting the correct messages from us and that we quickly address any misunderstandings.