Simple, clear language…

flick photo via iUnique Fx ©flickr image via iUnique Fx ©

A good friend gave this newspaper clipping to me a while back…

The parents of a Houston high school student received a message from the principal about a special meeting on a proposed educational program.

It read, “Our school’s cross-graded, multi-ethnic, individualized learning program is designed to enhance the concept of an open-ended learning program with emphasis on a continuum of multi-ethnic, academically enriched learning using the identified intellectually gifted child as the agent or director of his own learning.”

The parent wrote the principal, “I have a college degree, speak two foreign languages and four Indian dialects, have been to a number of county fairs and three goat ropings, but I haven’t the faintest idea as to what the hell you are talking about. Do you?”

When I read this it made me think about the language I choose when talking to others, especially students, their parents and also to my colleagues. There is great value in simple words. We can so easily get caught up in the jargon surrounding teaching and learning. We should keep it simple, I think.

As a school administrator I vow to use simple, clear language in my communication with people at school.


  1. Hi Sean: excellent points here, nice job! We had a faculty meeting yesterday and our principal wanted me to share mid term data reports with our staff. As an admin team we looked over about a hundred pages of data from discipline, to attendance to grading through the midpoint of the year. We are a new admin team (new principal, new AP(me), and interim AP) so I wanted to keep the presentation short, concise and easy to understand, while getting our message out. Your article reminded me of this. I presented a simple two sided single sheet of paper. On the front was a quote from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great explaining the “flywheel” concept – I always like a good story or concept! We then flipped the sheet over and had 4 or 5 simple data points comparing last years’ tobacco use, fights, class cuts and electronic device violations compared to this year. Obviously this year they have all dropped dramatically due to the diligence of the staff and kids working hard on our new policies. The data was simple, but shared a salient point with our staff- we are slowly changing the culture of our school one push of the flywheel at a time! KISS

    March 10, 2011
  2. I’m with you Bill.
    To me, the process of simplifying is infinitely more challenging than complicating… “adding on” is so much easier than “taking away;” boiling down to critical core points of data, interest, focus, etc.
    Much respect to you and your team for making the effort to “boil down” the critical stuff for your staff. I am certain they appreciate the effort.

    March 11, 2011

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