It’s Confidential

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How do you get people to listen a little more carefully to what you have to say?

Years and years ago, I used to always find myself listening carefully to the messages delivered in briefing from a deputy headteacher I admired. I was never sure why. I knew I respected her. She was a great teacher, she listened, she laughed with colleagues and often at herself. For 8 years as a middle leader, I had the privilege of being line managed by her every week. But I often wondered – when she spoke publicly – why I often found myself day-dreaming and then ‘woke up‘ whenever she started speaking.

Could it be that she rarely attended briefing, because she was always on the gate welcoming students?

Maybe it was because she was a drama teacher and she knew ‘how to speak’ in front of an audience?

Or perhaps, due to the nature of her role, she was always sharing confidential information?

Perhaps (all three).

So, how can teachers learn from each other and use language better in class? Here are a few tips for teachers, as well as some important website updates …


… one clue I soon picked up on, was when I started my masters degree in 2004. During my research of ‘semiotics and teaching’; the use of visual cues to improve teaching and learning – sign language, signals, signs and non-verbal communication – that there is much that is said when it is not said at all. With this knowledge under my feathered cap, I commenced my action research in school, observing and filming teachers using a range of communication in lessons. The results were fascinating.

It became apparent that the teachers with strong relationships with their students, commanded the class and used non-verbal language with their students to manage behaviour, as well as using non-verbal signals to improve teaching and learning.

During my research as the case study developed, I used the time to observe when my deputy headteacher delivered messages in staff briefing: why I would find myself listening more closely to what she had to say. These were the over-arching factors:

Every message was delivered from the centre of the staffroom. She was always standing and spoke softly. The messages were succinct and clear. And, over-arching all of these verbal and non-verbal cues she used, was the use of one word’ that featured in all of her (safeguarding) notices to staff: “confidential”.

Whenever you want people to listen to you – I mean really listen to you – speak softly and slowly. Lean in a little and tell them that what you are about to say is ‘confidential‘.

It may not be the perfect word to use in lessons or when speaking with colleagues, but in school leadership there is a time and a place to use such language. And as an aside to the use of this word, consider the factors involved when teaching or speaking in staff briefing: standing central to your audience, speaking softly and succinct.

It has real power!


And now that we have your attention.

On Monday 10th April, Teacher Toolkit is moving to a new domain name. It’s confidential and we just wanted you to be the first to know, just in case you are looking for a blog or a resource over the next few days and weeks and cannot find what you are looking for. We’ll be back to winning ways in no time at all and we just wanted to let you know. We will soon be a domain.

If you are interested in the academic research mentioned in this post, you can read the synopsis here.

2 thoughts on “It’s Confidential

  1. Thanks for this article! I agree with you, if someone told that it’s confidential conversation we pay more attantion and trust this person more.
    I am begginer teacher and this blig is very useful for me, thanks!

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