Remember that old game of ‘telephone’? The point was to see how accurate a sentence could remain as it passed from person to person. Sitting around in a circle with your friends, you watched as one whispered a short sentence into another’s ear. No matter how hard the group tried, the sentence always ended up being about purple elephants flying with green giraffes. No matter how hard the group tried, the sentence always ended up skewed.
Have you ever found yourself playing a never-ending game of telephone? Hopefully, you haven’t seen any flying animals.
But the truth is, administrators, counselors, and teachers can easily find themselves frustrated with something as simple and as everyday as communication, especially with their families. One simple misread intention, whether it was meant with kindness can create a hard wall between the two groups.
In our fast-paced, technologically centered society, emails and voicemails have replaced actual conversations. And although this makes it seem simpler, it can invoke more conflict.
Stilted conversations, ones that happen over a period of time and not in the actual moment, can create major miscommunications. It is important to remember that communication is the whole of various parts; including our words, body language, tone, or eye contact. Taken separately, it can be easy to make an assumption about what one might mean, take it completely out of context, or respond in a way that invites more problems instead of solutions. It’s no wonder that educators can often find themselves in conflict with their families.
So how do we create a more effective way of communicating with our families? After all, they are an essential element to the future and growth of our students. Here is a simple way of creating connections between educators and parents, instead of static air.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Quote by Stephen R. Covey)
It can be easy to go into a conversation with our own idea of what might come from it, but by doing that we lose one of our greatest assets: our ears. Attempt to remain neutral as you seek to understand where your parent is actually coming from. Simply put, listen and ask questions. Clarify what your parent is asking instead of rushing to a conclusion and trying to come up with the best response as they are speaking. It’s okay to take a couple of silent moments before answering.
Presence (keep it face to face)
Managing our day to day responsibilities, this can be unrealistic for some. Hence, email is inevitable. But, if you find that you have sent two or more emails to a parent in the same day, it would be beneficial for your relationship to call a meeting or call them on the phone. By doing this, you create a direct line of communication and show your families how important their concerns really are. They will appreciate your directness and accessibility.
Encouragement (positive interactions)
Even if you have no current problems with a family, picking up the phone or writing a letter to tell them how great their student is banks large deposits. Do this regularly for all students! Keep it simple and genuine. Later, when there is a hard moment with a family, your positive interactions with them will go a long way.
Aim (what are you both working towards to get done?)
By staying goal oriented, it is easier to collaborate with someone and identify the part that you have ownership of. Every conversation and interaction will then follow as intentional and effective. Not only that, you will see your families as a partner instead of an adversary.
Keep it focused on the student
Maybe you’ve been attacked or made to feel as if things are your fault. Understandably, things can get emotional when it comes to students and what adults in their life think is best. But by getting upset or frustrated, are you benefiting the student? It isn’t about you. It isn’t about the parents. It is about the fragile hope of a successful future that lies in your student. Remember that is what you are working for.
SPEAK with your heart. It is in our everyday communication in which great change can come.
About the Author
Tabitha is a K-12 certified school counselor, nationally certified counselor, and blogger. When she isn’t on the internet you can find her in the mountains, drinking a cup of tea, or hanging out with her husband.