Effective communication as we head back to school
The excitement that students have as they begin a new school year is contagious. Yes, even those high school students act like they are not excited, but it is mostly an act! A new year with new possibilities is here! One of the gifts of working in education is that everyone gets a new start.
Communication is a two way street. Parents, please don’t wait to be contacted. Find an opportunity to introduce yourself and to communicate any special issues that your child might have that school personnel should know. This may be physical in nature, such as food allergies; or it may be emotional, such as a recent loss in the family. It may be just the initial contact to encourage future communication.
If there is a need to communicate with a teacher because of a concern, I suggest that this communication be conducted in a face to face meeting. Electronic or even telephone communication may lead to misperceptions. Here are some suggestions for effective communication with teachers:
1. Teachers and administrators are extremely busy and are with students the majority of the time. Please set up an appointment. Almost every minute of a teacher’s day is structured, and it is not possible to leave a class of students for an impromptu visit.
2. Follow the chain of command. If a parent is unhappy with a teacher (or administrator), visit with that person. Complaining to co-workers, family and friends does not help solve the issue, and it can damage the positive atmosphere for our kids.
3. Try to keep the emotion out of the conversation. We are all passionate about our kids. Having a logical, effective conversation requires emotional control.
4. Write down the main items to be communicated and questions to be asked. This helps to provide clarity to the issues and helps to establish specific objectives.
5. Focus on the issue at hand and avoid digressing to issues from the past that are not in the control of the individual you are visiting with or are not relevant with the primary issue.
6. Recognize that there are two sides to every story. As a high school principal, I witnessed numerous situations of children venting to parents, which ended up in meetings where parents heard another perspective. Kids are not being dishonest, there have just been omissions of information to gain a sympathetic parental ear. If age and subject matter appropriate, have children available to join the meeting.
7. Educators realize that parents are students’ first teachers. The education of our children is a team approach. It is important that children not perceive divisiveness between the authority figures in their lives.
Effective communication doesn’t just happen. It takes focus and effort. Teachers and parents have the same goal, the success of our kids. Communication is the responsibility of all involved. By working together, we can continue to strengthen our school system.