This blog was written by Ikraan Mohamed as part of RAISE's student blog.
Being a student who struggles with communication and listening in class, I always find myself in the shadows, a silent observer of classroom discussions. I often feel intimidated by the complex language used by teachers. The frustration of not being able to express myself or grasp the essence of what was being taught by teachers was a constant challenge for me. I experienced a sense of isolation due to my challenges in communication. I was unsure of the underlying reasons behind my struggles. At first, I thought it was due to the feeling of being alone, yet little did I know that the key to unlocking my potential in the classroom would come from an unexpected source, a book called "How to Talk" by Leil Lowndes.
The Power of Small Talk
One of the lessons I learned from this book was the hidden power of small talk. As a student who often felt lost in the sea of academic jargon, I realised that small talk is the bridge that can connect students and teachers. Small talk wasn't about discussing profound academic topics or delving into deep philosophical debates, but about the simple act of initiating conversations on everyday subjects: the weather, weekend plans, or even the latest movie. These seemingly trivial topics serve as an icebreaker, a way to humanise the classroom experience.
Teacher’s small talk provides a powerful tool for building rapport with students. By engaging in casual conversations, teachers can establish a more approachable image to students and allow students to feel more at ease. This sets the foundation for more substantial academic discussions to follow. This personal touch goes a long way in creating a learning environment that is comfortable. Students are more likely to ask questions and actively participate when they feel they are part of a friendly and inclusive classroom.
The second lesson I learned revolved around the intricate art of reading body language cues. The author explained audiences often assess speakers through body language and tone. And to make a positive impact right from the start, you must observe the audience’s body language and expressions, and adapt to your presentation promptly.
This lesson is indispensable when I had to deliver a class presentation on behavioural economics. In my presentation this semester, I noticed furrowed brows and signs of disinterest during my speech. As although, the topic was where my passion was, I understood that not everyone in the class shared the same level of interest. I knew it was time to put the art of reading body language cues into action. I redirected my presentation and shifted from complex jargon to more relatable, real-life examples. I paused to gauge the reactions of my audience continually.
For example, when discussing prospect theory, a fundamental concept in behavioural economics, I related it to everyday experiences. I spoke of how we all make decisions based on perceived gains and losses and highlighted how these principles could be applied to choices in our daily lives. The transformation was astonishing. As I connected the complex theories to relatable scenarios, I saw my audience's expressions change. Frowns turned into nods of comprehension and distant gazes transformed into focus. Reading the body language cues allowed me to tailor my presentation to the specific needs of my audience. It created a learning experience that not only engaged my peers but also deepened their understanding of the subject matter.
A game changer for my communication in the classroom
The book "How to Talk" by Leil Lowndes has been a game-changer for my communication and engagement skills as a student. Through lessons like the hidden power of small talk, reading body language cues, and matching the listener's mood, I've discovered the keys to creating a more inclusive and engaging learning environment.
You are not alone
You're not alone if you've ever felt isolated. I had been there thinking I was the only one. But what I've learned from this book is that simple adjustments, coupled with heightened awareness can be transformative for your feeling in class. Meanwhile, it's not just students who can benefit from these insights, teachers can too. By incorporating small talk into their teaching approach, being attuned to students' body language, and adapting to their emotional states, educators can create a classroom atmosphere where every voice is valued and engagement soars.
About the blog author
Ikraan Mohamed is deeply passionate about promoting mental health awareness and student engagement. She currently volunteers with the NHS, which has fueled her interest in student engagement, stemming from observing the role's profound positive impact on patients.