Being in the people business, good communication seems so obvious, yet we rarely talk about what makes good communication. Raise your hand if you wish that Google had a pop up screen that said, “Are you sure you want to send this email? (It seems angry).” Note to self, send an email to Google.
Is the way in which you communicate as a teacher to your students the same way that you communicate with a parent, your Principal or Director, or a colleague? Of course not, yet it is these complex interactions that cause us the most stress and angst during the day. It’s what we talk about with our spouses over dinner, and it’s the root of what we do as educators. So, let’s communicate about whether or not you have the skills to be a good communicator.
1) You choose the right medium for the situation: Tweet, phone call, text, hand written note, personal conversation, email, snapchat, etc. etc. As I write this, I think how much the impact of a hand-written note has changed over the past decade. Imagine the power of getting one of those today? And I heard recently that teenagers think that calling is rude as opposed to texting which is less interruptive. Unreal.
2) “Can I think about that?” In this era of instant communication, we all know that instant does not equate to effective. How many times have you been trapped in a hallway conversation that you wish you never entered into? (For me it’s at least a hundred). Or quickly responded to a text that caused a firestorm? Believe it or not, you can hit ‘pause’ and respectfully tell the person you’d like an hour or a day to mull it over. And refer to #1 on how to respond!
3) “Got a minute?”: FYI, it’s never a minute and FYI2 your supervisors rarely enjoy these conversations. They don’t know what’s going to hit them, they have a million other things on their minds, and there’s a high likelihood they’re going to tell you something you don’t want to hear just to get the issue off their plate without really thinking about it. Why not send a message (refer to #1 again), and frame the issue before entering the communication? I know it takes more time out of your busy day, but it gives the other party a chance to think. (And for those of you who like the ambush technique, shame!)
4) “Email Boomerang”: If you email back and forth more than once (or if your response is over a paragraph) it’s time to talk. Oh, the power of email. How has it made our lives worse? It has set us back on communication at least fifteen years. This is especially a nightmare for the international educator dealing with parents. Throw in language and cultural differences, and your Principal will be involved faster than you can say, “Why did I hit send on Sunday night?”
5) “Action through inaction”: How many of you have those annoying notification reminders popping up on your smartphones demanding action or attention? (usually from games your kids installed). Just because you get a text or an email, even a message, doesn’t mean you MUST respond. Let it chill. Sometimes the person on the other end will let it go (possibly out of their own guilt for hitting send), or maybe they’ll even approach you and say “Did you get my email? (At which point you can say, “Yes, I did, can we talk?”). The point is, it is not your station in life to bounce back answers to everything just because something pings you.
Good luck. And before I go, please spread the gospel about talking about good communication. We spend ten times the amount talking about accreditation, but that’s not what makes our lives miserable (well, not entirely). It’s bad communication. There’s nothing as cathartic as a meeting of hard-working adults in a school talking about what is working and what is not when it comes to good communication. It can alleviate a lot of sleepless nights. Believe me.
Of course, there’s only one apt way to play this one out: The ‘Til Tuesday classic: Voices Carry