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Supporting supply teachers with continued training and development

We’re education people first and recruiters second and that’s why we support supply teachers with continued training and development. 

One of the ways we do this is to provide you with meaningful resources and skills for the classroom.

Today we’re sharing how to gain effective classroom communication skills by understanding the principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and how you can apply these to improve pupil-teacher relationships.

What is NVC?

NVC is a style of communicating that can be useful for resolving conflict and increasing compassion in your relationships with others and with yourself. Many teachers find NVC a helpful way of communicating with students and supporting their emotional development, the importance of which is emphasised in current Ofsted guidelines.

If you want to increase your skill in creating a supportive learning environment, have greater self-compassion, and help your students improve their resilience and emotional literacy, NVC will be a valuable addition to your emotional toolkit.

In this post we’ll cover the four key steps of expressing yourself using NVC, so that you’ll be able to introduce it to your teaching practice.

The four components of the NVC model

Step 1 – Observation

The first step is to describe something that is affecting our wellbeing. NVC encourages us to make ‘observations’ rather than ‘evaluations’ at this step. Evaluations usually involve making judgements about what someone’s behaviour says about them. Saying someone is messy, rude, lazy or too loud are all examples of evaluations.

Observations on the other hand, describe the specifics of what is happening as accurately as possible, while avoiding judgements or labels.

The idea behind avoiding evaluations is that people are less likely to feel hurt or defensive if they don’t feel we are judging them. It’s also easier to resolve conflict if the other person is clear about exactly what aspect of their behaviour we would like them to change. Of course, even with our best efforts someone may still hear us as judging them but using NVC makes this less likely.

If it’s our own behaviour that we would like to be different, we’re more likely to think clearly and constructively if we avoid labelling or judging ourselves.

Here are some examples of how we might react to the same event with an evaluation or an observation.

EvaluationObservation
You’ve been rude and disruptive since the lesson started.You’ve spoken at the same time as me three times during this lesson.
You haven’t been putting in much effort lately, you really need to try harder.I'm missing three pieces of homework from you.
That lesson went so badly, I’m a terrible teacher.I didn’t know the answer to a student’s question last lesson and I heard two students saying the activity I’d planned was boring.

Step 2 – Feeling

The next step is to share the feelings we’re having in relation to what we observed, to help the listener (or ourselves) connect with how the situation is affecting us.

Here’s a brief list of emotions we may feel in challenging situations:

FrustrationConfusionExasperationIrritation
WorryDisconnectionJealouslyUnease
FearBoredomInsecurityImpatience
WearinessDistractionOverwhelmHelplessness
DiscouragementAnnoyanceStressDisappointment
GuiltAngerDistressAggravation

NVC encourages us to avoid saying that we are being made to feel something. This is to minimise the chance of the other person hearing our words as an accusation and then feeling defensive.

Avoiding this can also deepen our awareness of our own responsibility for our feelings, by helping us see that our feelings are not the inevitable product of the situation, but emerge because of our own needs, values and desires.

The second thing to be aware of is that a lot of phrases that begin with ‘I feel’ don’t actually describe an emotion, but instead end with an analysis of the situation. While this might give clues about our emotional state, it may also sound accusatory and prevent us or a listener fully connecting with what we’re feeling.

AnalysisEmotion
I feel like you're being deliberately difficultI feel frustrated
I feel like you've lost focusI feel concerned
I feel like a failureI feel disheartened

Step 3 – Needs

The third step of NVC is to identify the need or desire that is not being met in the situation. Below is a non-exhaustive list of what NVC calls ‘universal human needs’ that almost everyone experiences at some point.

ConnectionAttentionTrustRest
AppreciationEqualityPlayIntegrity
CooperationClarityCompetenceCreativity
EmpathyRespectProgressSafety
SupportJoyHumourOrder
PurposeSelf-expressionChallengeFreedom

The purpose of this step is to help the listener connect with the need or desire that is behind our emotional reaction to a situation.

Once we have this understanding, it may also become easier to think of alternative strategies for getting our needs and desires met, even if our preferred strategy isn’t possible.

Step 4 – Request

The fourth and final step is requesting a concrete action which would improve our wellbeing and meet the need or desire identified in Step 3.

Let’s return to the examples from earlier:

ObservationFeelingNeedRequest
You’ve spoken at the same time as me three times during this lesson.I feel quite frustrated because I find it more difficult to concentrate if someone is talking at the same time as meand I really value the class having my full attention and sharing it equally.Would you be willing to share how you’re feeling with me so we can come up with a solution that works for both of us?
I've noticed I’m now missing three pieces of homework from you.I’m feeling concerned



I also feel a little unhappy,
because I’m imagining you might be struggling somehow and it’s important to me that you have support if you need it.

because I really value acknowledgement from my students when they’re not going to meet deadlines.
Would you be willing to tell me what got in the way of you handing the homework in, so I have more understanding?
I struggled to answer a student’s question last lesson and I heard two students saying the activity I’d planned was boring.I’m feeling pretty sad right now.I guess it's really important to me to feel appreciated and competent. It's also important to me to contribute to the lives of my students. I really want to meet their needs for interest and excitement.I think I’ll call a friend, because some support and appreciation from them will help me feel better. Maybe I’ll also think about the ways I do contribute to my students’ lives to try to get a bit more of a balanced perspective.

The aim in this step is to make a request which is framed in positive language; in other words, we try to tell people what we would like them to do, rather than what we would like them to stop doing.

Negative requests are more likely to provoke resistance and may sometimes result in misunderstandings about what alternative behaviour we would actually like.

Sometimes we may not want to request a concrete action. We may simply want an acknowledgment that our feelings have been understood, or to hear an honest explanation of how the listener feels about what we have said, to open up further communication. We may also request to hear how the listener heard our words, to avoid misunderstandings. Sometimes, as in the last example, we may chose to make a request of ourselves.

By applying these 4 steps you’ll quickly see how potentially inflammatory situations can become constructive with positive outcomes. 

If you’d like to access more information we found nvc-resolutions.co.uk  and nonviolentcommunication.com has some good resources. 

If you’d like to know more about Just Education’s CPD for supply teachers email hello@justeducation.co.uk or visit justeducation.co.uk

Sophie Kirkham
Just Education Ltd

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