Chapter 5, Part 1

Chapter 5:

Improve Your Communication

Introduction

Teaching is a communicative art. Effective communication needs to be a vital part of all that we do as educators. There are so many stakeholders that we need to communicate with on a regular basis. We, of course, need to communicate with our students. We also need to communicate with parents; to hear their concerns, to learn from their insight, to encourage them, and to share our own concerns. We need to communicate with other educators to learn and grow. We need to communicate with our administrators; we can learn from their guidance and they need to know what is going on in our classrooms to effectively lead the school. So, it is safe to assume that good communication skills are essential to being a successful teacher. Regardless of how well developed our own skills at communication are, there are tools that can facilitate better communication with all parties.

The way that I understand it, there are at least two types of communication that effect how well we are able to function as educators: communication to students and others, and communication with students and others. We, as educators, have to deliver our messages in such a way as to be easily accessible. How do you handle the following situations?

  • A student is absent from class. Can he learn from home or does he fall behind?
  • A student is called from class to go to the office/nurse/trainer/coach/other teacher/etc… Can he easily find out what went on in class, or does he have to wait until you can catch him up?
  • A parent wants to be more involved and know what is going on in class, but because of a difficult work schedule cannot easily schedule phone or in-person conferences. Is this parent excluded, or is there a way to bring the parent in on what is going on?
  • Another teacher hears from a common student about the amazing things you are doing in your classroom and wants to learn more. Is she able to do this on her time, or does she have to wait until you are available to help her?

Communication here is about empowerment. In a normal, traditional classroom, most of the power resides with the teacher. By sharing that power through effectively communicating, we can help to ensure that everyone has the information they need to learn and to participate.

Communication with students and others, in this context, is more about being open to hear from other people. This is much more complicated because you have to understand the needs of your stakeholders, primarily students and parents, both when they tell you and when they do not.

There are tools to simplify the process of communicating effectively with others. No tool will work to its full potential if a few criteria are not first met. First, there needs to be a trusting environment in the classroom and the students need to know that you care about them. No students will come to voice a concern to you if they do not trust you and believe that you are working in their best interests; coming to you for help implicitly puts you in a position of power and the student in a position of vulnerability. Students have often had traumatic experiences where teachers have, often unintentionally, abused that power to make them feel small. That is not your fault, but that is an obstacle you have to overcome by building trust with your students. This is a very time intensive process, but it is necessary to help promote an environment where students can feel safe and comfortable.

Second, you need to invest time into getting to know your students and forming relationships with them. This is tangential to the first point, but it is necessary to add that students, for a myriad of reasons, will not always voice their concerns or issues. It takes a skilled teacher with an intimate knowledge of her students to be aware of issues that arise without being told. Again, there are no shortcuts here; all we can do is to spend time creating a safe environment based upon trusting relationships, and then utilize the tools that will allow us to maximize communication with our students.

1 comment to Chapter 5, Part 1

  • This blog is very helpful for new teachers who are just begining their journey as an educator. I am in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. I was given this blog as an assignment to comment on. I have thought about how I was going to communicate information to the parents of the children, but not necessarily how I was going to communicate with other teachers, administrators, or even with the students. I am glad to have read this blog so that I can go ahead and start working on my communication skills.

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