SUMMER FIND A WORD PUZZLE

This is a Summer Find A Word Puzzle for you. Find the 20 words related to summer in the puzzle below, then write them in the comments section below.

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Since you’re here, why not read some stories here? Read ‘A Jackass Tale’, ‘Dog’s gone mad’, ‘Being poor and a single parent in Canada and Mary’s descent. Share them with your friends after you’ve read them. Browse the blog. You may find something else that you like.

Also, here are some books that may interest you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Puzzles, 4 comments
Effective communication through listening

Effective communication through listening

Effective communication through listening is necessary to facilitate ‘true’ communication, which is really our understanding of the messages that we receive and our acting on those messages. In acting on those messages, our impact can be far-reaching.
Hemingway advises us:

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

A great bit of advice and a valid observation about our attitude to listening! There is much that passes us by because we don’t listen. I think that Beyoncé’s song, Listen, from the 2006 movie, Dreamgirls is a great introduction to this topic. It may be put under the heading, Listening and relationships.Take a listen:

Did you know that there is an International Listening Association? Here are some facts about listening that they share with us:

LISTENING AND MEMORY

In a dynamic, conversational listening task, where people must remember a series of related questions and respond to them, people can remember and respond to 2.946 items (Janusik, 2004).

LISTENING STYLES

People listen through one of four primary styles, including people oriented, time oriented, action oriented and content oriented. Females are more likely to be people-oriented and males are more likely to be action, content, or time oriented (Barker & Watson, 2000).

LISTENING AND LEADERS

Leaders give good attention to the speaker by looking the speaker in the eye (Orick, 2002).
Leaders paraphrase the speaker to ensure understanding of the speaker’s message (Orick, 2002).
Leaders are able to relate accurate messages to a third party, which shows that they listen[ed] to and remembered what the original speaker had said (Orick, 2002).

LISTENING BARRIERS

The most frequently reported listening barriers among students are listening primarily for details or facts; becoming distracted by noise; daydreaming or becoming preoccupied with something else while listening; thinking of another topic or detouring because of what the speaker has said; and lack of interest in the speaker’s subject (Golen, 1990).

LISTENING ACROSS THE LIFESPAN

Elementary students reported themselves as having better attention spans than all other ages and groups (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).
High school students rate themselves as better able to listen than elementary students, young adults, colleges students, adults, and the elderly (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).
30% of the elderly admit to having poor or very poor hearing; however, only 45% reported having the opportunity to listen to thoughtful communication (Halone, Wolvin, & Coakley, 1997).

LISTENING AND EDUCATION

Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997).
Listening training is not required at most universities (Wacker & Hawkins, 1995).
Students who are required to take a basic communication course spend less than 7% of class and text time on listening (Janusik, 2002; Janusik & Wolvin, 2002).
If students aren’t trained in listening, how do we expect them to improve their listening?

Read the full article here.

Lessons learnt from the data above

  • Improve our listening to retain more than we currently do of what we hear
  • Discover our listening style
  • Learn to listen, if we plan to be effective leaders
  • Breach our listening barriers
  • Listening ability declines as we age.
  • Training can improve listening.

How do we listen effectively?

Watch this video:

Encouraging effective communication through listening in the classroom

Because listening is so important it’s no surprise that it’s part of the Language Arts curriculum in schools. Many years ago, every trained teacher of English learnt in college that every lesson should include listening, writing, reading and speaking.
Here are a few strategies that teachers of English in Jamaica often use to engage students in listening.
Strategy 1
1. Chinese Telephone
Chinese telephone is a game. In playing this game, students stand one behind the other.
The teacher whispers a ‘message’ to the first student in line. This message could be, ‘Today is a beautiful day’. That student whispers the message to the person next to him/her who relays the message to the next in line until it reaches the last person in line. The last person in line then tells the group the message s/he received.
Oftentimes, the message reported a garbled mess.
Students and teachers laugh. The teacher tells students that the game is to show the importance of listening. The game is just a warm-up exercise (usually five or ten minutes) to get the students in the mood for what is to come. But does it really help students to improve their listening?
Strategy 2
2. Listening to the spoken word or music
Another activity that teachers use with their students is allowing them to listen to music or her reading and fill in the blanks of a script that the teacher prepares for them.

Developing effective listening skills – Are these strategies useful?

Yes! They are certainly useful. However, in the examples above, the teacher asks the students to recall information. Recall is good. After all, we do not want to distort the facts!
However, listening should do more than recall information. Teachers want their students to engage in active listening to engage in effective communication. That is teachers want their students to:

  • share their thoughts
  • listen to the thoughts of others
  • give feedback which improves the process of communication
  • study the non-verbal cues sent out by speakers

Not much of the above happens when teachers use the strategies above to help students improve their listening.

Really improving communication through listening

Teachers should give students the chance to practise critical listening. That is, students should get the chance to:

  • paraphrase what they hear and
  • evaluate what they hear by questioning it. They question what they hear by asking questions which involve the 5 ‘ws’ and the ‘h’:
  1. Who?
  2. When?
  3. Where?
  4. What?
  5. Why?
  6. How?

If students learn to evaluate what they hear, they will be on their way to practise effective communication.

Ensuring the effectiveness of listening exercises

To make sure that listening exercises are effective, teachers should do the following:

  • introduce students to the purpose of listening
  • give students strategies to use when they listen
  • link listening exercises to the ‘real’ lessons
  • When students practice listening to the content of lessons they will increase their understanding of the content of their lessons. As a result, they will become invested in the later lessons that they have to learn, hopefully.

Conclusion

Effective listening is active listening. That is trying to hear what is said and react with appropriately. When we listen, we’ll be surprised at what we hear and learn. For students to engage in effective communication through listening, teachers should begin to introduce them to critical listening. This should happen in all classes, not only in English classes. This is not an easy process. It is something that teachers will learn to do, with practice.
Find other posts on effective communication through writing, reading and speaking here.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Effective communication through speaking

Effective communication through speaking

In previous posts, I shared a basic introduction to communication, and explored effective communication through listening, writing and reading. In this post, I’ll explore effective communication through speaking.
Effective communication through speaking means that you have meaningful conversations with other communicators. These meaningful conversations are ones during which the sender using the ‘right’ words and body language sends the message he/she intended to send and the receiver of the message receives the exact message that was sent. But there is much more to speaking than using the ‘right’ words and body language.
Effective communication through speaking is a skill that the education system seeks to develop. Before we look at examples of how this is done in the classroom, watch this video and learn how to speak to engage your listener. There are takeaways for everybody, no matter your profession.

Speaking in the classroom

All of us engage in speaking in some way and most of us speak more in informal settings than in formal ones.
Formal settings have rules. The classroom is a formal setting which has rules which many students see as a constraint to expressing themselves.
Students are still aware of them. For example, there is the expectation that students speak with teachers using the Standard Language.
Many students, have much practice speaking the non-standard forms of their native language outside of the classrooms but, not much practice speaking the Standard Language. Knowing that teachers expect them to speak the Standard Language in the classroom makes them uncomfortable.
Many students have much to say to their peers inside and outside of the classroom, but they don’t have much to say to teachers. This is a problem that many teachers try to solve. How should they go about doing this? They should first:

Identify the barriers to effective communication through speaking in the classroom

Here are some of these barriers:

  • Some students believe that they don’t know enough about the content of the lessons that the teacher presents to comment on it.
  • Some students genuinely don’t know anything about the content which the teacher is presenting to them.
  • Many students don’t care enough about the content of the lesson to do research about it, therefore they don’t have anything to say about it.
  • Some students don’t want to say anything. They learn best by listening.

Since the teacher wants to have an interactive classroom where teaching and learning takes place, the teacher has to find ways to remove these challenges. Here is an example from the Jamaican classroom.

Effective Communication through speaking in the Jamaican classroom

In the Jamaican classroom, like in any other classroom in the Western world, teachers expect students to answer questions when they ask them. They prepare students to speak.
These are the strategies that teachers use. They:

  • assign students reading tasks.
  • ask students to read, at least about the topics they study in classes.
  • give students writing assignments on topics that they study in classes.
  • engage students in listening activities
  • have read aloud sessions in the classroom
  • introduce drama into the classroom
  • speak to them sometimes in the language that they know

The communication tasks of reading, writing and listening in which students engage lay the groundwork for their speaking activities.
Do these strategies work? Some teachers swear that they work, especially the drama related activities. Other teachers see little impact.
Teachers soon discover that while many of their students can speak knowledgeably about many things in their lives, they have no interest in speaking about their lessons or speaking in the classroom.

The challenges of engaging students in effective communication through speaking

The major challenge that teachers face in engaging their students to speak in the classroom lies in the language situation that exists where students live.
In many societies, several language forms exist:

  • there is the standard Language
  • a non-standard version of the standard Language
  • multiple languages

In Jamaica there is the Standard English which is the formal language. It is the language of books; the language of the media, mostly; the language of the education system and other formal institutions.
Many students come to school understanding this language. That is, they understand Standard English as spoken by others. They are able to read texts presented in this Language.
However, many students do not write well in this Language and many do not speak the Language.
These students cannot engage in effective communication through speaking with people who speak the Standard Language.
While they understand what the speakers of English say to them, the speakers of English, unless they understand Jamaican Creole (Patois or Patwa), will not understand what these students say.
Since one party doesn’t understand the communication of the other (the message), effective communication doesn’t take place.

Solution

To help students to speak in the classroom, teachers should:

  • allow them to speak what they know. They should allow them to express themselves in the language in which they are competent.

If every time students speak a sentence in the Jamaican Creole in the classroom the teacher tells them to paraphrase in English, they will become de-motivated and be reluctant to ever speak in class again.
Teachers, however, should remind students, from time to time, about the importance of being able to speak the Standard English.
Teachers can give this reinforcement by devising targeted speaking activities for their students.
Students can engage in these activities through role play, for example. These activities should be based on the content of the subjects that teachers teach.
Students won’t consistently speak the Standard English in the classroom. But these targeted speaking activities can help them to build their vocabulary which is useful in communication.

Conclusion

Speaking is an activity that everybody does. Whatever the language that we speak, we want people to listen to us when we talk to them. That is, if we both share the same language.
In some language situations, the classroom setting for example, teachers and students don’t speak the same language in the classroom but they understand each other quite well. The teachers’ job, however, is develop the communicative competence of their students. This means that they have to help their students to communicate through writing, speaking, reading and listening.
While most students can read, write and listen to the language of instruction, they have difficulty in speaking it. It is no easy task to get students to speak the Standard Language. However, it is better to have students express their opinions on issues inside and outside of the classroom in the language that they know. Communication is expression. If students can express their understanding of the content that they learn in any language, they are on their way to being productive citizens.
This doesn’t mean that teachers should stop trying to get their students to speak the Standard Language. Just don’t get frustrated when some students never develop this competence. At least they communicate in other ways that they understand what teachers teach.
Be happy that students leave school with the ability to engage in effective communication through speaking in the ‘languages’ that they know.
The book, The Teacher’s Gift, explores some of the challenges that teachers face in the classroom and provides some solutions to deal with them. Browse this book here.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Governance Requires Leadership

Governance Requires Leadership

Governance requires leadership. It does not matter whether this governance happens in government agencies or in the private sector.

This post examines governance in government agencies, since this has been a focus in recent times.

Understanding governance

Since the early 1980s many governments have been trying to reform their agencies to ensure that they are responsive to the needs of the governed, because multi-lateral agencies like the World Bank (WB) told them to do so.

To this end, they have been trying to ‘wrap their heads’ around issues of ‘governance’, especially ‘good governance’. ‘Governance’ and ‘good governance are similar in many respects but not quite the same.

The countries that need to learn the skills of good governance are mostly in that part of the world referred to as the Third World. But not to worry, the multilateral agencies have created a ‘road map’ for these countries to follow, which will lead them to ‘good governance’.

These agencies seem to believe that for countries, especially the poor states, to achieve development, the management of these states would have to be improved. The management tool that they are touting to be used by these states to achieve development is that of ‘good governance’.

Governance requires leadership to achieve development

In one of its publications, The World Bank Experience (1994), the World Bank defines governance as being:

  • … epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy making
  • a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos
  • an executive arm of government accountable for its actions
  • a strong civil society participating in public affairs
  • and all behaving under the rule of law.

All of the points listed above are significant to the governance project but a few of them beg to be examined in some detail.

Bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos

First, how would we describe a bureaucracy imbued with professional ethos?

Quite loosely defined, the bureaucracy refers to all the workers in government whether directly or indirectly affiliated. We tend to see them as civil servants but all workers in government agencies (the public sector) make up the bureaucracy. I use this definition that focuses on the people, rather than that which focuses on the rules, the ‘red tape’ which characterise the activities of government.

A bureaucracy which is ‘imbued with a professional ethos’ is one whose workers believe in and practice the standards that are guiding principles of their work in the public sector.

In addition, these individuals are exposed to continuous professional development.

Moreover, they would have knowledge and skills that are suited to the tasks that they have to complete as part of their job.

If the bureaucracy adheres to the standards set to guide the effective working of government, possess the knowledge and skills that are task specific and are exposed to continuous professional development, they are ready to assist the government achieve all the other goals of governance. This is so because the bureaucracy plays an important role in creating and implementing the policies aimed to address the needs of the society.

For, government policies designed for any sector of the society to achieve their intended goals, there must be leadership of a high calibre.

A strong civil society participating in public affairs

In addition to having a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos, good governance is ‘epitomized’ by having ‘a strong civil society participating in public affairs’. Here, the focus is not only on a robust government (those individuals in the Cabinet and their activities in Parliament). The focus is also on the participation of the private sector organisations, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), other civic groups and every member of society in solving the problems of their society.

A society in which participation of its members in the affairs of the country is expected and encouraged is one based on governance principles. Governance requires leadership that encourages the active participation of citizens.

Rule of Law

Governance requires leadership that understands and believes in the Rule of Law. This leadership must accept that everyone in the society – whether occupying high or low positions, rich or poor – is subject to the ‘rule of law’. This means that everyone is equal before the law so if any member of society engages in illegal actions, the legal system is open to everyone and will be the final arbiter of innocence or guilt. This is the ideal that should guide the actions of leadership.

Good governance from the perspective of the UNDP

The perspective of the UNDP supports the idea that good governance requires leadership. The UNDP extends the idea of governance by focusing on, not only governance, ‘good governance’. According to the UNDP, good governance has the following ‘underpinnings’:

  • Good management practices over the country’s economic, political, and administrative affairs
  • Participation
  • Transparency
  • Democratic institutions
  • Accountability
  • Human rights standards
  • The rule of law

This view of governance puts pressures on governments to change the way that government is run to a better way – good governance. So, instead of feeding decisions downwards after they make them, they will have to seek some sort of consensus from the governed. The practice of government should be open, inclusive, efficient, effective with an emphasis on reducing waste.

Challenges of governance

Theoretically, the idea of encouraging good governance makes much sense. Governments would govern in a purposeful way – focusing on satisfying as many of the demands of citizens as they can, subject to the amount of resources that they possess, of course.

However, successfully putting these ideas into practice in small societies is a challenge. These are some of the challenges:

  • Many governments in poor states are selective in terms of which of the democratic ideals they adopt and practice.

 

  • The small size of some states ensures that everyone shares a communal relationship. Thus, it is difficult to implement policies that will negatively impact a segment of society. This, in turn, will strain the relationships between and among groups – a situation that they try to avoid. As a result, reform processes are managed half-heartedly.

 

  • A number of these states have leaders who do not have the necessary skills to manage the process of reform to create societies in which good governance is the norm. This challenge is easily resolved through education and training. The reform process will take longer than expected but equipping leaders and potential leaders with the necessary skills to do the job is necessary to the success of this reform process.

 

  • Leaders in central government need to go through a process of reform. They have to reform:
  1. their ideas about the aims of government where they are
  2. the methods to be used to realise their aims
  3. their thinking about the nature of the available resources.
  4. the selection of people for leadership roles in government
  5. the training of all workers in government so that they understand their role.
  6. their commitment to governance principles
  7. communication channels to ensure that they are clear
  8. their ideals

Governance requires leadership that:

  • welcomes participation from civil society
  • takes step to empower workers in government through training to do the job that they do
  • ensures that public servants understand the rationale for the policies that government is contemplating or the finished products that have been developed by think tanks and other such societal groups and what the policies hope to achieve
  • help public sector workers understand the content of the policies. A number of public sector leaders at the top of the organisation and in middle management do not understand the narratives spouted by ministers and other leaders of change in the organisation. So, when meetings are convened, policy positions are outlined and these ‘leaders’ are urged to go back to their departments to spread the word, the word remains on the desks of these ‘leaders’ because they do not understand exactly what is required of them and they are too embarrassed to ask. One can imagine the outcome of policies in scenarios such as these.

Conclusion

Good governance, then, requires leadership. It requires leadership at the top, the middle and the bottom of the system if the core aim of the process – development – is to be realised.

 

Read other reflections here. Check out my books here.

 

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Government policy, Reflections, 0 comments
Basic introduction to communication

Basic introduction to communication

Here is a basic introduction to communication. In this very brief introduction to communication, I’ll explore the definitions of communication, communication situations, barriers to communication, channels of communication, as well as other bits of the ‘nitty gritty’ of communication.

In subsequent articles here, I’ll focus on communication through speaking, writing, listening and reading.

Ways to view communication

Communication is a skill that everybody possesses and practices with varying degrees of competence. It is a subject of study. It is the most important feature of life.

There is no one accepted definition of communication as evidenced by the number of models of communication that scholars have thought up.
Scholars, over the years, have been trying to understand the communication process and as soon as they discover a new insight, they share it with the world. Thus, the number of models out there.
These models are really ideas, in visual form, of how communication takes place.

What is communication?


1. Is it sufficient to say that communication is a process that involves a sender of a message and a receiver of a message?

2. Or, is it sufficient to say that communication is a process that involves a sender of a message and a receiver of a message, both sender and receiver giving feedback about the message to each other?
3. What about saying that communication is an active process that includes communicators who listen to each other and provide feedback, while at the same time creating realities. That is, through the process of communication, communicators:

  • empower themselves by learning about themselves and their style of communicating and

  • contribute to creating and strengthening relationships in the contexts in which they live, work and play

These are all definitions of communication. The models of communication force us to think about what we really do when we communicate; when we interact with each other and the environment.

A basic definition of communication

Communication happens all the time, but what exactly is this communication and how is it defined?

Communication is an activity which involves a process. Simply put, it involves a sender of a message and a receiver of a message. The message can be sent via any medium. Communicators send messages using any of the following media: songs, letters, works of art, speeches, meetings, among others.

These messages may be sent using different channels:

  • face to face

  • technology mediated channels such as email, social media, videoconferences…

  • written newspapers, magazines, among others.

And this communication takes place in a context.

As long as sender, receiver, message, medium and context are present, a communication situation takes place.

Understanding the communication situation

In a communication situation, the sender of the message and the receiver of the message engage in an interactive process. They act on the message and their back and forth responses to that message. That is, they give feedback to each other. But they do much more than this. Remember that all communication takes place in a context and this context impacts the message, sender, receiver and the medium through which the message is sent.

Communication takes place between and among: family members, students and their peers, students and teachers, workers in organisations, bosses and workers, spouses, neighbours, government and the governed…

The communication process is not smooth. The sender doesn’t just send a message and the receiver immediately gets the intended message all the time. Receivers and senders of messages (communicators) face challenges in negotiating the:

  • norms of the culture in which communication takes place

  • attitude of communicators to each other

  • expectations that communicators have of each other

  • non-verbal cues…

So, what happens in communication situations? Communicators do some of the following in each communication situations depending on the context. They:

  • listen

  • read

  • write

  • speak

  • paint

  • draw

  • sculpt

  • interpret non-verbal cues

  • give feedback

  • share ideas

Some of the above are constants in any communication situation, like listening and interpreting non-verbal cues.

Examples of communication situations

  • A classroom setting in which there is a teacher and a student for a consultation.
  • A workplace setting in which there is a worker who is about to be fired by the boss for making a big mistake in doing his job
  • A political rally where politicians are making their cases for citizens to vote for them in an upcoming election
  • The living room at home with mother and child; the child is defending his performance at school after receiving a poor report card

Use everything that you will learn from reading this post to analyse the above scenarios.

Barriers to communication

From your experiences of being in communication situations, you’ll realise that communication does not flow smoothly all the time. There are a number of factors in the environment that affect communication situations. These factors are barriers to communication because of the roles they play in restricting the smooth flow of communication in the contexts in which communication takes place. Some of these barriers are as follows:

Physical barriers

Physical barriers are noise, time, place, space and climate…

Noise – the ‘sounds’ that startle, that annoy, that frustrate, that drown out or muffle the ‘sound ‘that we want to hear. These noises can be music, conversation, revving of a motor bike or car, hammering, the whirring of an overhead fan, attitude of the sender and receiver of messages… Noise is anything that prevents us from deriving meaning from the communication in which we engage, in the spaces in which we communicate.

Timeimpacts much of everything and communication is not exempt. Benjamin Franklin observed that ‘time is money’. This is true, especially in the business context where the aim of business is to make as much money as possible. And this saying is also true in communication situations of a business nature.

Time is especially important in this era of cross cultural communication. Finding a time to communicate to benefit all sides is important when different time zones are involved.

There is another dimension of time that’s also important. Some parents often tell their children ‘there is a time and a place for everything’ when they try to interrupt an important ‘moment’ or say the ‘wrong’ thing at the ‘wrong’ time. Probably a child telling her mother’s friend the bit of gossip about that friend that the mother had shared with another friend. In these scenarios, timing is everything.

It is not the ‘right’ time all the time to share some bits of information.

Another bit of wisdom from parents:

You must know ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ before you open your mouth.

PlaceThe place in which communication takes place can impede the communication process. Things like the spatial dimensions of the environment can enhance or impede communication. Think about a room which communication is taking place.
Are there windows? How big or small or wide or narrow are these windows? People who suffer from claustrophobia will be concerned about the spaciousness or lack thereof of this room and this will determine the effectiveness of their communication in this space.

SpaceEdward T. Hall did much research on what he refers to as ‘proxemics’ in facilitating interpersonal communication. His book, Silent Language, explored, among other things, how people from different cultures view space during communication.

During the process of communication, how close to each other is close enough?

Being too close or too far away is a barrier to communication depending on who you talk to – the American, Mexican or Jamaican.

Climate – How hot or cold a space in which communication takes place is, is a barrier to communication. Think of yourself in those icy cold air-conditioned rooms at work or in public organisations. Or, think of yourself in a hot airless room. How much communication takes place there in these conditions?

Another dimension of climate has to do with the ambience in the room. Are good vibes flowing or negative vibes? Negative energy in the room can impede communication.

Psychological barriers – are those mental processes that impede communication. Examples of these barriers are the phobias that some people have such as fears of closed spaces, of height, of being too close to other people, of public speaking, of being judged… These fears can impede communication if not managed.

Other psychological barriers are attitudes and beliefs that we hold about things like politics and religion that impede

Physiological barriersThese are impediments in the body that may impact how effective communication is. Think of blindness, deafness, problems with memory, stuttering, problems with attention, pain… There are a number of physiological problems that affect communicators that may prevent them from communicating effectively.

Social barriers/Cultural barriers These barriers refer to factors in the social environment in which we live that may impact the effectiveness of communication. This is because there are norms in the family, school, work places, religion and other social institutions that determine how communication proceeds. These barriers restrict the flow of communication in every direction, but they often help to maintain the ‘peace’ between and among people in their groups.


Communicators have to find a middle ground to ensure that communication is effective.

Types of Communication

  • Verbal – oral, spoken; Think of all the situations that we communicate via ‘word of mouth’.
  • Non-verbal – body language; What is your body language saying to communicators? Is it suggesting boredom or excitement to receive the message? Do you ‘roll your eyes’, fidget, frown, smile…? All these actions say something to communicators.
  • Written – books, notes, letters…

Communication contexts

  • Business
  • Education
  • Family
  • Friendship groups
  • Religious groups
  • Clubs and Societies

Effective Communication
Effective communication is the goal of communication in any communication situation. Effective communication is communication in which communicators derive meaning from the encounter. That is, communicators understand the message and react to it.
This reaction may not be the one that the sender expects. This is because communicators can think and through thinking come up with ‘new’ ways of viewing ‘old’ issues. During the process of communication, they shed ‘new’ light on these ‘old’ issues, leading to new reactions to the issue. This ‘new’ interpretation of ‘old’ issues can lead to far reaching change in how we live our lives in our environment.
Of course, if a communicator responds in an unexpected way to a message, this may also cause conflict. This is so because every communicator has an agenda. It may be to inform, persuade or educate.
The question is:

Do other communicators want to be entertained, informed or persuaded at that point in time about an issue that they may not care about?

Probably not.
Effective communication should lead to understanding. To gain this understanding, communicators should aim to gain insights into the goals, motivation and biases of the persons with whom they communicate. This is important because communication is never neutral.

We communicate to achieve a purpose.

If we understand this, we can be certain that effective communication takes place every time we share ideas with each other because we’ll search for and find the purpose in every communication situation. Having found the purpose of the bit of communication, we can choose an appropriate reaction to it, one that clearly communicates our stance but also reduces negativity.
Effective communication is important to maintain and foster good relations among people within their personal and professional spaces.

Conclusion

This basic introduction to communication introduces some of the themes in communication. From this introduction, we can conclude that communicate is an interactive process in which communicators use different media/channels to send and receive messages. After sending and receiving messages, they act on these messages with an aim to:

  • understand each other.
  • come up with solutions to the problems that they face in the environments in which they communicate.
  • to inform educate and persuade each other.

We learn that the process is not easy because for effective communication to take place, communicators have to overcome a number of barriers that may mute or distort the messages that they send and receive.

Nevertheless, we can conclude that communicators have been managing to do this fairly well, for the most part, if what is happening in the world is any indication of this.

This basic introduction to communication continues here. Be sure to check out these posts.

Remember:

As we experience life, our minds never stop working. We think about our experiences. These thoughts that we have stir emotional and/cognitive responses as we either consciously or unconsciously process them. We process our experiences by critically or uncritically thinking about them. After we think about our experiences, we share them, if we choose, with others. In sharing our experiences we communicate.

Browse this book, Investing In Our Success, in which I share stories about of the Jamaican people and culture.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Effective communication through writing

Effective communication through writing

Effective communication through writing is necessary in today’s world where it is important that we read and understand written materials.

Being able to communicate through writing is an essential skill that complements the other communication skills – listening, speaking and reading – which I explored in previous articles.

In this article, I focus on writing in the context of the classroom, but the content is relevant to everybody who writes, and we’re all lifelong learners.

Importance of communicating through writing

One of the tasks that teachers expect their students to do is write. Teachers expect their students to write compositions/essays, among other writing tasks.

They expect students to communicate a wide range of ideas by writing them on paper or by using a word processor.

Teachers ask students to complete tasks which require that they write to persuade, to explain, to describe, to discuss and to show their creativity, among other writing tasks.

Unfortunately, for the student, s/he doesn’t usually get the chance to write about something in classes that s/he deeply cares about.

This is because teachers select topics for them. Teachers do this because they are preparing their students to demonstrate their competence in completing set tasks in internal and external examinations. The education system uses these examinations to determine students’ competence in particular subjects.

In addition, students write examinations because it is through the process of examinations that the education system judges their readiness to engage in further education or their readiness to enter the world of work.

Students then get grades based on the quality of their writing, measured by some assessment criteria. That is, the grades that students receive for their writing assignments is a measure of their competence on a given assignment.

The grades that teachers give students depend on how well they demonstrate effective communication through writing.

Effective communication through writing – Major challenges

  •  Students don’t want to reveal anything about themselves.

Students realise that writing is one of the facets of communication through which teachers expect them to share a part of themselves with ‘strangers’. Teachers are these ‘strangers’ who get the opportunity to peer behind the masks which students wear.

Many students and non-students are reluctant to open up, even a little bit of themselves, to the scrutiny of others. Therefore, they are unwilling to take the first step to communicate through their writing.

One student admitted as much. He said he was not willing to write about himself, because he was reserved. Because of his reserved nature, he wasn’t comfortable ‘putting himself out there’ for all to see.

The truth is that whether students directly write about themselves or about others, they reveal a part of themselves to others. See below some of the writing tasks that students complete in the Jamaican classrooms.

Writing to persuade

If students write to persuade others about the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of a course of action, they reveal something about themselves to the discerning reader. For example, they reveal their stance on the issue, a stance that they may want to keep to themselves.

Writing to explain/describe

Students reveal something about themselves when they:

  • provide an explanation about anything
  • give instructions
  • describe a process, a person or a thing

Write discussion pieces

When students discuss an issue, exploring it from all angles, they’re revealing something about themselves to the discerning reader. They’re revealing their ability to engage in effective communication through writing.

Write creative pieces

When students write a story, a poem, a play about any subject they reveal something about themselves. They reveal their interests, their inclinations, their thought processes, their fantasies, their influences and so on.

  • Some students don’t have the necessary content to accomplish the writing tasks that teachers ask them to complete.

 

  • Other students lack the ‘right’ vocabulary to effectively communicate their thoughts.

 

  • A number of students need to develop competence in using the standard language of the country in which they live as this is often the language of the education system. When students don’t have competence in this language, they find it difficult to engage in effective communicate through writing.

 

  • Some students need to learn the skills to structure their ideas into sentences and paragraphs.

 

  • Other students don’t like to exert themselves and writing requires mental effort. Many students cannot be bothered to exert this effort.

 

Empowering students to engage in effective communication through writing

Since many students find it difficult to engage in effective communicate through writing how can teachers help them? Teachers  help students who do not have the necessary content to communicate effectively through writing to gain that content. They can do this by encouraging students to:

  • read
  • listen to experts as they share their knowledge on a number of subjects
  • take an interest in the issues being discussed at any point in their communities and the wider society
  • engage in discussions
  • be observant as they go through life.

Importantly, teachers need to learn the art of writing by understanding its processes. Afterwards, they should share their knowledge with their students.

Conclusion

Communicating through writing should be a part of every student’s communication tool box.

Although many students are reluctant to exert effort on the process of writing, with careful guidance by the teacher, students can learn to engage in effective communication through writing.

While you’re here, take a slight detour  here to browse the Teacher’s Gift, a book which I share lessons learnt from teaching, challenges in teaching and strategies to overcome them.

Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Communication, 0 comments
Learning outside the classroom – 10 Lessons from a Jackass

Learning outside the classroom – 10 Lessons from a Jackass

The sun doused the earth with its heat. The wind blew pebbles down the grass-less hillside. Leaves crackled as they skimmed the ground. The wind tossed them about the yard as if playing with them. My friends and I sauntered from guava tree to grapefruit tree, from grapefruit tree to star apple tree, from star apple tree to mango tree. We looked for something exciting to do.

My father’s donkey stood under the star apple tree swishing its tail and taking bites from the hedging. Sometimes, it wandered to the end of its leash, found something to munch on along the way, before changing course and going back to his place under the star apple tree.

‘Let’s go to the river,’ I said. Before I’d finished speaking everybody was ready to go.

‘Let’s ride the donkey,’ Marlene said. It was not the first time that we rode the donkey, but on flat ground. He’d always had a nice temperament and didn’t seem to mind carrying all of us around on his back.

‘I’ll take the back,’ Novelette said, her plump face crinkled with laughter.

We loosened the donkey and led him to the doorway of the house. It was the perfect distance from the ground. I mounted first and held on to the rope around his neck. He pranced around for a bit until I managed to settle him across the doorway. Marlene climbed on next. After much hesitation and laughter, Novelette scrambled on. The donkey turned to the path that led downhill to the river.

As the donkey started down the first slope, we realised that we were sliding forward. I held the rope taut, clamped my legs around the donkey’s midsection and braced backwards.

‘Brace back!’ I shouted to Marlene and Novelette.

‘Whoo hoo,’ they screamed. At their screams, the donkey quickened his steps.

We made it intact to the second slope. The track narrowed. The trunk of the mango tree that stood to the left of the track sloped forward. It had been buffeted by strong winds and had almost toppled over, but it stood its ground. The donkey bounced down the track. The weight of my friends behind me threatened to push me over the donkey’s head. I braced backward with all the strength I had. Before I knew what was happening, I was alone on the donkey’s back. We’d made it to the bottom of that slope.

I swung around to see what was happening behind me. Marlene and Novelette clung to the curved trunk of the mango tree, convulsed in gales of laughter. When they sensed the possible danger, they’d grabbed on to the trunk of the mango tree and swung to safety.

‘Come off of the donkey!’ they warned, as they jumped on to the dirt track.

‘Come on,’ I said, nudging the donkey forward. I wasn’t about to give up the pleasure of riding that donkey.

We continued on to the river, they walking behind the donkey and I, giggling and shouting out warnings.

There was one more slope to negotiate before we reached flat ground and I prepared myself for that. As we made it halfway down that slope, we turned the corner on to the smooth grass. The road to the river was just below us.

In front of us, the undulating hills, in different shades of green, rose to the sky. To the left of us, coconut trees lined the hillside as far as the eye could see and to the right bamboo trees rose to the sky. The donkey loped along, stopping from time to time to munch on pickings from the brush at the side of the road. We climbed another mound. At the bottom of that slope, I was still on the donkey’s back.

The donkey had had enough of loping along, it seemed. He started a canter. I bounced along on its back. Marlene and Novelette ran along behind us. The donkey moved into a gallop. I held on to the rope around his neck and did my best to stay with him. By that time, Marlene and Novelette were laughing and screaming and chasing us.

‘Hold on, Janet! Hold on!’ they screamed. I held on with all my might.

The donkey reached the path leading down to the river and braked. It was a miracle that I remained seated on his back. He started to dance round and round in circles, as if he were in a dressage contest, baring his teeth as he did so. I held on to the rope, my legs clamped to his flanks.

He reared. I stayed put.

He didn’t listen to our pleas to behave himself. When he realised that he couldn’t dislodge me, he calmed down. I seized that opportunity to jump off his back and gave him a wide berth. The donkey shook himself, ignored me and went to munch on the grass that lined the roadside.

‘You good,’ said Novelette, obviously in awe of the prowess I’d displayed on the donkey’s back.

‘Good!’ Marlene scoffed. ‘You coulda dead!’

Novelette laughed.

We tethered the donkey to a tree by the side of the road and went to frolic to our heart’s content in the cool waters of the river.


Learning outside the classroom happens all the time. This learning outside the classroom complements the learning that you do or have done inside classrooms. Do you ever stop to think that you can learn much from the humans and non-humans that you meet as you go through life?
Even the jackass is a teacher. Here are 10 lessons that I learnt from riding one jackass.

Lesson 1

Help others, even when you don’t feel like doing so.

There are times when people – relatives, friends and even strangers ask you to do them a favour, but you don’t feel like obliging. You say any of the following:

  • I have something better to do.
  • I don’t feel like it.
  • You’ve never done anything for me before.
  • No!

But as long as you can help, do so.

Lesson 2

Help others to help you.

There are times when you ask for help. You say that the burden that you’re carrying is too heavy. But when you get that help, you decide to donate your burden to your helper. You say, ‘you are stronger than I, so you can carry it all by yourself’. And you sit back, relax and prepare to watch your helper work miracles.

Well, you’ll soon realise that the path that leads towards a solution to your problem isn’t smooth. There are curves and forks and slopes on the way, so you’ll need to adjust your expectations. if you don’t, your helper may toss your burden back at you, leaving you to fend for yourself.

Lesson 3

Don’t stress after you’ve done your best.

If you give all the help that you can afford to give to someone who asks for help, yet the person does nothing to help him/herself, continue to move along.

If someone refuses your help or can’t deal with the help that you give, don’t stress about them. Continue your journey to where you want to be.

If while you are lending a helping hand, the person you’re helping refuses to let go, take action to loosen that person’s hold on you. Give the person the opportunity to move on.

Lesson 4

Leave the past in the past.

Time is always on the move and you with it. Don’t spend time trying to get back at the person who takes advantage of you. Learn from the encounter and move on.

Remember, while you’re having a nervous breakdown because someone has done you wrong, that someone is getting relief from another helper. So, accept that life isn’t perfect and go back to taking care of your business.

Lesson 5

Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble.

When things aren’t going your way, or your options seem to be limited, you may say:

  • I can’t do this.
  • I can’t take the stress.
  • I can’t be bothered.
  • I wasn’t made for this.

Don’t! Instead, change the narrative. Say ‘I can do this’. ‘I will do this.’

In saying that you can, you are reaffirming your faith in your ability to complete the course of action that you set out to complete.

In saying that you will, you are reaffirming your intention to continue the journey, no matter how difficult it gets.

This is a good start. However, faith and intentions aren’t good enough when you want to achieve anything.

Intention + Faith + Action is the winning formula to achieve anything that you dream about.

It is said that actions speak louder than words. In this case actions complement your faith and your good intentions will help you to achieve the goals that you set for yourself.

Lesson 6

Challenge yourself.

The donkey that you want to ride is big. You’ve never ridden a donkey before. You’re scared. So you stay far from it. In doing this, you’re giving up the potential satisfaction that you could gain from succeeding at a difficult task.

Don’t be content to keep your little corner in the same state all the time. Take risks. Change it up!

Lesson 7

Find the hidden strength inside yourself.

Know that change is sudden and often unexpected. So, when times get tough, get tougher!

Several things could happen when you decide to take an action that you expect to benefit you in some way. Friends, relatives and significant others may:

  • applaud you and wish you well.
  • warn you about the dangers that you will encounter.
  • ignore you.

And, when you’re going through rough times on the journey, some friends will encourage you to press on. Some will say, ‘I told you so’. Others will say, ‘It was a stupid idea to begin with’.

If some of your friends had started the journey with you, some will abandon you, but that’s life.

When you’ve soldiered on and successfully completed your journey, some friends will:

  • congratulate you and be happy for your success.
  • congratulate you and say, ‘you’re really lucky, I didn’t expect you to be successful’.
  • be envious that you dared to achieve the success that they would have loved to achieve.
  • ignore you.
  • remind you about the bad things that could have happened.

Lesson 8

Seize opportunities.

It is equally difficult to ride a donkey whether uphill, downhill or on level ground, as the going is equally tough. Do your best to navigate the twists, turns and bumps in the road. Importantly, keep your eyes open to seize opportunities when they present themselves.

Lesson 9

Learning takes place in action.

It was Donald Schon who popularised the idea about thinking in action.

Many times, you’ll discover that the answers are not at your fingertips. You have to think on the fly.

There are times when you start on a course of action – a project, a new job, a new business – and it is not going according to plan. You feel frustrated and decide to throw in the towel, to abandon your plan.

Don’t give up. If you persevere, you will find the answer while you’re in action.

While riding my donkey, I learnt how to maintain my balance while going uphill and downhill, something I’d never thought about before.

Think about some of the lessons that you learn daily by riding your jackass, whatever that jackass is.

Lesson 10

Being calm and focused in difficult situations could be the difference between life and death.

In difficult situations, you may be tempted to take rash actions but always keep the consequences of your actions at the forefront of your mind. If I’d allowed the donkey to win our battle, the consequences may have been dire.

Conclusion

10 lessons from outside the classroom, taught by a jackass! What lessons are you learning from the jackass that you’re riding?

The jackass that you are riding may be a relationship, a job or yourself. This ride is teaching you many lessons. Are you learning them? If you’re learning them, are you putting them into practice?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below, then share this post with your networks.

Find other stories here.

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Posted by Janette B. Fuller in education, 0 comments
Dogs gone mad – Short Story

Dogs gone mad – Short Story

‘Jenny, Jenny!’ I called. There was no answer. I opened the latch of the metal gate, painted in black oil paint. The gate stood a few feet from the big white house that sat on its fruited lot in the quiet neighbourhood of Amity.

I was excited to fit the outfits that Jenny had assured me were finished and ready for fitting. ‘Dressing up’ was my favourite pastime, so I was really looking forward to see what Jenny had done with the many yards of materials that I had entrusted to her to be transformed into her creative designs. I was especially eager to see what she had done with that piece of black material with the little red and green flowers on it.

I laughed as I found myself thinking of the black piece of cloth with its little flowers on it. In a class in college called ‘Personal Development’, we had to make skirts. My teacher, Miss Black, asked me what kind of material I had. ‘Black with little purple and white flowers on it,’ I said, to giggles from the rest of the class. They knew me well, I suppose.

‘Floral!’ Miss Black snapped. ‘Floral!’ She had her hands full with us who did not care to be ‘developed’.

I had not taken many steps up the walkway when Jenny’s dogs, as big as horses I thought at that moment, rounded the sides of the house. It seemed as if they were being propelled by an unseen force. I saw the muscles on their well toned bodies straining as they raced towards me.

For less than a second I was paralysed with fear and shock as the worst scenarios of being mauled to death by dogs flashed through my mind like a morbid slide show. But that was less than a second, because without knowing exactly how, I was halfway up the trunk of the sturdy mango tree that occupied pride of place in Jenny’s front yard. My heart was racing and my limbs were not cooperating as well as they could. Before I could heave my slight body on to a welcoming branch, out of the reach of the dogs, I felt their teeth sinking into my legs, my thigh and my butt.

I tried to kick, to pull myself upwards, but the strength of the dogs was just too much for me. My wretched screams seemed to drive them into a frenetic ecstasy as they sank their teeth deeper and deeper into my flesh.

‘Stop it, you bad dogs!’ I heard the welcomed voice of Jenny when I thought it was all over for me. ‘You know Carrie. Why you attacking her?’ She slapped and pried them away from my aching and bloody body. ‘Hitler, Apache, Lady! Get away from her!’ Jenny screamed as she stood between the rabid dogs and me. The dogs retreated, in tight formation, as if they were one ferocious force.

Jenny had a much more difficult task to pry me from the trunk of the mango tree, than she had prying the dogs away from me.

‘I’m so sorry, Carrie. The dogs never did anything like this before. I’m so so sorry…’ Before I slipped into unconsciousness, I glimpsed the dogs sitting close together by the steps, seeming to be straining to have another round with my limp body, if their mistress dared move away from me.

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Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Stories, 5 comments
Two poems for you – Escalator and Rhythm

Two poems for you – Escalator and Rhythm

Escalator

Walking up the down escalator
Down the up escalator I climb
Huffing and puffing
Standing still
Stuck in motion.

Rhythm

Bu dum bu dum dum
Bu dum bu dum dum

Hips sway
Arms flail
Feet prance
Heads bop
Body transported.

Bu dum bu dum dum
Bu dum bu dum dum

Hearts race
Eyes bulge
Sweat seeps
Blood flows
Spirit soars

Bu dum bu dum dum
Bu dum bu dum dum

Blues wait
Fear hates
Trust flees
Sense hesitates
Door caves.

Bu dum du dum dum
Bu dum du dum dum

Sound pulsates
Soothing souls

Sound silences
Hope explodes

Sound startles
Babylon wins

Probably you’d like these poems, too.

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Mary’s descent, short story

Mary’s descent, short story

Carla travelled through the dense foliage, taking care to stay on the foot path, her memory a reluctant guide. Tall, sharp, bladed, strands of grass stood on the dirt path that charted its tight course uphill. On reaching the peak of that hill, Carla had a spectacular 180 degree view of the village. She stood there for a moment, drinking in the view of her past, a past which invaded her present, inviting her to once again dwell in its glow.

To her left she saw the green, rolling hills stretching upwards, seeming to be touching the mostly overcast sky. She saw an occasional clearing, dotted with banana trees and above them, larger trees with outstretched branches that seemed to be embracing everything under their shadows.

On those hills and under those trees, she had spent carefree days, raiding fruit trees and playing ‘Hide and Seek’ with Miss Mary’s children. Meanwhile, Miss Mary uprooted the weeds that had settled among the banana plants.

As she gazed at those hills, Carla remembered Miss Mary screaming the names of her children when they disappeared from her line of sight. ‘Dee, Paul, Louise! Come back ‘ere where a can see you. We live in dangerous time.’ Carla smiled as she remembered them scampering back to the clearing where Miss Mary stood, arms akimbo.

Miss Mary never called Carla’s name, but Carla knew that she was concerned about her as well. ‘You all right?’ she would ask, spinning her this way and that to reassure herself.

Carla returned to the present. The mosquitoes buzzed around her ears. She swatted them away, and allowed her eyes to sweep the rest of the hillside. ‘That’s Miss Margaret’s house. That’s George’s house.’ She tried to remember the owners of all the houses peeping out from behind the greenery of trees and shrubs that kept out prying eyes. She remembered the days when she sat on Miss Mary’s verandah with her and her children and listened to Miss Mary’s stories about the people who had lived on those hills and the people who still lived there.

Carla’s gaze touched the empty pasture in the valley that was the play field of children and animals, as well as the cricket ground. She remembered the days when she sat on the bank of Miss Mary’s yard, high above the valley, and watched cricket matches and gloried in every six and four runs her team scored.

She remembered Miss Mary’s petite figure, her gesticulations, her guffaws, her restlessness, her dance moves.

As she prepared to brave the steep descent to Miss Mary’s house, she found herself wanting to stay on top of the hill with her memories. Miss Mary had moved to a new home in a ravine near the bottom of the hill. She was still active, but only in trying to maintain her independence from those whom she believed were trying to take it away. She was still telling stories, but some of those stories were far removed from any reality that she ever lived.

Carla slid and stumbled her way down the ravine, tightly clutching the bag of ‘goodies’ that she’d packed for Miss Mary. As she hurtled down that perilous path towards Miss Mary’s house, she wondered if Miss Mary would remember her.

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Posted by Janette B. Fuller in Stories, 4 comments
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