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The Tactful Teacher: Effective Communication with Parents, Colleagues, and Administrators.

[website] The Tactful Teacher: Effective Communication with Parents, Colleagues, and Administrators, by Yvonne Bender. Nomad Press (2456 Christian St., White River Junction, Vermont 05001), 2005. 134 pp. $16.95.

Although Yvonne Bender has written sound advice for classroom teachers in her book, The Tactful Teacher: Effective Communication with Parents, Colleagues, and Administrators, she has a great deal to say that will serve the independent music teacher as well.

By setting the context for effective communication on the job, Bender lays a foundation from which the reader may consider real case studies. She suggests strategies that form a basis for any teacher's daily encounters with others. The ideas are largely common sense--developing the ability to adjust to what is called for in a given situation, following the accepted chain of command, learning to compromise, expressing oneself positively and learning active-listening, to name a few.

Bender focuses on four types of communication that concern teachers: exchanges with parents, administrators, colleagues and community. She acknowledges that successful teachers are effective communicators, pointing out that talking with each of these groups requires a different approach. She then sets out to describe strategies to use for adjusting to each group.

The heart of The Tactful Teacher lies in "Part III," "Communicating With Difficult People" in which Bender focuses on four types of people: those who are angry, overly controlling, apathetic or anxious. Several examples in the form of case studies or stories are presented as illustrations of ideal communication. Following each story is an analysis of the strategies used and why they worked.

It is not hard to super impose Bender's descriptions on the dilemmas of an independent music teacher. Bender says that over controllers frequently mistake lack of assertiveness for weakness and will often ask for exceptions to the rules. An overly controlling person, for example, might be the parent who constantly asks for deviations in the studio's weekly lesson schedule. The independent teacher, responsible for setting his or her own studio policy, often feels that parents try to take advantage of the home-studio policy. Bender's advice to be firm, direct and clear about what one will and will not do, is good for any effective communicator.

Bender clearly distinguishes tact from weakness or indecisiveness. Being tactful and positive means being well prepared, having clear boundaries (although she does not talk in terms of boundaries) and exhibiting self-confidence while listening empathetically.

This is a practical, down-to-earth book that can boost the confidence of the conscientious teacher and remind all of us that thinking about strategies for successful communication in the world of education is well worth our efforts. Reviewed by Nancy Kaesler, NCTM, Golden, Colorado.

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Author:Kaesler, Nancy
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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