Given the influx of tools to communicate with, it’s almost like communication is harder at a time when it should be easier.
When you think of connected principals or educators you probably have this vision of people sitting in a classroom with their iPads and smartphones reading the latest blogs or using the newest apps with students. They sit at meetings taking notes on their tablets while other educators sit around them using paper and pens. Being a connected educator means that you stay current with technology and try to infuse it into your instructional or leadership roles.
Although some of that may be true, there are many connected educators who are not just concerned about connecting; they are concerned about connecting effectively. In these days of 24/7 tools that surround us and help enrich our lives there is also a risk that we still do not communicate correctly. It is still possible to not communicate well even though you have the latest technology tools.
It has probably happened to most of us in our personal lives. We try our best to communicate with friends through Facebook but we do not always do it correctly. We upload pictures from a party that we forgot to invite a friend to or a friend posts a comment about something happening that shouldn’t be posted.
I had a friend tag another friend in a comment that stated they were going to the hospital. He meant that they were going to visit someone but by the time he checked his post there were numerous people who posted comments about how worried they were that their mutual friend went to the hospital. They wanted to know what was wrong. They were sending positive thoughts and prayers!
The original comment created a lot more stress for people than was needed. Not to mention the fact that the friend had siblings who were finding out on Facebook that their brother was going to the hospital. Unfortunately, they tried calling his cell phone to check on him when he was in a hospital room that required cell phones to be turned off. The panic continued for an hour or so…
Communication to the School Community
“I don’t know. They never tell me anything.”
“I’m always the last to know.”
Schools are at risk of miscommunicating with their community. When school districts are large enough that they have multiple schools at each level, it is very hard to get the same message out to all parents at the same time. Many schools have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and have the capability to e-mail parents at the same time. Unfortunately, those tools to communicate with parents take people to do the work and many schools are dealing with budget cuts so they have less people to do more work.
If school communication falls to the principal, which most times is part of their job, communication becomes something to check off a list. Not all principals sit in their offices at the same time and can send out e-mails, Tweets or post to Facebook at the same time. When one principal communicates before another, it can create stress among the group. Everyone wants instant access to every message and it just isn’t possible.
Communication is important and most of us feel that it is one of our yearly goals. It’s often one of the biggest complaints principals hear. If one teacher gets a message before another, principals hear that there is a lack of communication in the building.
The truth is, we want to communicate better. Principals don’t sit around dark rooms meeting with their principal colleagues discussing ways to not communicate. Given the influx of tools to communicate with, it’s almost like communication is harder at a time when it should be easier. I believe that connected educators have an obligation to constantly discuss how educators can communicate better with parents and students. Principals and district leaders also have an obligation to find the most effective ways to communicate with their community.
In the End
Communication is vitally important to how a school district functions. Nothing is more important than face-to-face communication but with 24/7 tools educators and leaders can get simple messages out quickly. In addition, they can use these tools to send out parenting, educational articles or news from individual state education departments. Technology has really changed the way educators interact with their students and parents.
It’s important to make sure that key players (teachers, aides, principals, etc.) know about a message before it goes out so they can answer questions from the community. If these current tools are going to be used, everyone should make sure they’re used correctly. We live in a quick-fix, fast-paced society. Slowing down a message by few minutes will not be the end of the world. If a message is going to go out, it’s important to make sure it goes out right.
- Do it right the first time. Communication is not something to check off a list. It involves a message that goes out to the school community. Write it in a Word document and then cut and paste it into an e-mail. It will help ensure that the message is grammatically correct.
- Before any communication goes out to the community at the district or building level, educators should be notified so they can answer questions when parents ask. Many educators live within their community and deserve to be given information first so they can answer questions appropriately.
- If parents do not have access to computers make sure that the school or district offers paper copies. Not all parents should be expected to have computers, especially if they cannot afford them.
- If a school has a Facebook or Twitter account, any communication sent out using those tools should be sent in an e-mail blast as well. Not all parents have Facebook or Twitter accounts but most do have e-mail access.
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