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Communication is understanding, not just verbalizing

Throughout my career in education one thing has become abundantly clear to me: communication among stakeholders is absolutely essential for effective learning and operations to take place. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have always seen education as akin to a three-legged stool, with the three legs represented by the school itself (and the people within the walls), parents, and finally the community the school serves. If any of those three legs fails in its duties, the stool will fall, thus failing in its principle job.

Proper communication is at the core of making sure that all three groups of stakeholders fully understand what each is doing to ensure that learning is taking place. Motivational speaker and writer Tony Robbins once said, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

This is true in education as well. We are educators must be mindful of the perceptions of parents when we attempt to communicate some new policy, directive, or even specific instructional strategy. Instead of solely communicating what it means to us as teachers and administrators, it’s key to communicate it to parents in a way that answers the question they likely have in their mind at that moment: “What does this mean for my child?” As a school administrator, I met with a variety of parents and one thing that struck me was that the individual experiences of each parent when they were children also impacted the perceptions that they had of schools as adults and parents. Some parents had quite positive experiences with teachers and schools growing up, and their perceptions of how schools operate were vastly different from parents who found school to be a struggle or perhaps who had some bad experiences as a child learner. What was important to me as an educator was to communicate to the individual parent based on what their perception was of education, making sure to note communicate solely from my own perspectives.

Quality communication involves actively listening and being in touch with what the other person is saying. Parents want to be heard, to know that you are truly listening. Remember that effective communication isn’t just the message you send but also the message you receive and how you respond to it.

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