At the Center for Teaching, we are sponsoring a workshop with teachers who are new to their schools, new to the profession, or changing from a different profession to teaching.  Our three-day workshop is focused on “learning the craft” or “getting ready for the classroom.”  We have 13 teachers collaborating on a variety of activities designed to help them build a bigger and better toolbox to use in 2011.

One part of our curriculum is to study and learn about the “hidden messages” that operate in our classrooms.  We come to a classroom community or school with a history that is complete with hidden messages we need to understand, especially those of our students.  In the hidden messages could be barriers to engaging in the learning environment.

From our group brainstorming, these are some places where hidden messages may hang out.

  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Student expectations
  • Dress/appearance
  • Body language
  • Cultural background
  • Inclusivity and exclusivity
  • Observed peer interactions
  • Teacher body language and communication
  • Tired, hungry, worried can be manifestations of hidden messaages
  • My friend is mad at me
  • “This work is hard for me.”
  • Student illnesses, absences, and tardies can be a manifestation of a hidden message
  • Missing assignments
  • Student insecurities
  • Bullying
  • Social class
  • Lack of participation

The pictures above are from an activity the teachers did to understand hidden messages.  They are wearing a hat with a “label” that they don’t necessarily know what it is; however, the “label” dictates the types of interactions they have with others.  The group spent about 5 minutes going around interacting, talking and sharing, but basing their interaction on the “label” the person was wearing.  We then processed and discussed the activity.  What happened?  What were we feeling?  What is the significance of this to our classroom?

The participants really felt this activity helped them understand the importance of being sensitive to the hidden messages that students bring to the classroom.

Contact the CFT if you want more information about our programs for training new teachers in the Summer Institute at or