Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Educator’s Notes on Communication: More Strategies for Success

I have found that effective communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is a consistent quality among good teachers.  While this may seem obvious, it is one of the most difficult topics about which I talk to teachers.

In all honesty, I am not a communications expert.  I do, however, need to effectively communication with a variety of audiences (teachers, other administrators, students, parents, etc.).  Therefore, I have a few principles of communication that have served me well and I believe would be helpful for anyone who is reflecting on their own communications.

Communication is a two-way relationship

Whenever we try to communicate with someone, we take the chance of revealing something about ourselves to the audience.  This can leave us vulnerable for both acceptance and rejection.  On the other hand, this investment can reveal something about the audience that we would not have known if not for our communication.  These lessons provide the context for future communication.

The burden of understanding the message is often placed on the communicator.

The audience is responsible for being attentive and asking questions, as needed, but whether or not the message is received normally falls on the person delivering the message.  Of course, you need to be engaging enough to hold the audiences attention, but you also need to be prepared to be an active listener.  Active listening can be hearing responses, clarifying what you are hearing , and directing your responses based on that clear understanding.  Active listening can also refer to paying attention to the non-verbal clues your audience is sending.  Responding to these signals can also help you make sure your message is being understood.

As communication takes on many forms in the digital world, an appropriate set of communications protocols may help eliminate communication “misfires.” 

These protocols outline your school’s expectations as they pertain to email, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, etc.  Without some agreed upon protocols, you run the risk of sending missed signals about you communications priorities.  Your audience is also left wondering what to expect when it comes to reaching out to you.

Here are a few examples:

  • Emails are responded to by the end of the next available work day.
  • CC and BCC recipients are not expected to respond to the message. Address the email in the “To” field for those who should respond.
  • If a question cannot be resolved within 2 or 3 emails, a phone call or meeting may be necessary.
  • An email (or phone call) to check in with a student who has been absent for an extended period of time is a good idea.
  • Phone calls are returned in the same time period as emails.

Defined Expectations + A Spirit of Partnership = Effective and Disciplined Communication

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