After attending the Raise Your Hand Texas “Art of Leadership” program in 2009 and “Redesigning High Schools” program in 2011, Principal Devin Padavil has put his new skills to work in his home school district of Pflugerville. Devin believes that open communication between teachers, administrators and parents is one of the keys to student achievement, and he provides tips to establish effective communication for this new school year.
When I used to work for Principal, Superintendent and School Leader Dr. Nelson Coulter, he would always say to us, “All efforts to communicate may fail, but communicate anyway.”
In today’s world, the ability for teachers to communicate effectively with all stakeholders is crucial to the success of the teacher and the school. Yet it seems difficult, time-intensive, and inefficient. Here are a few tips to aide your efforts to communicate.
Help Others Understand How to Communicate with You
Many parents want to communicate with their child’s school, but don’t necessarily know how. Depending on past experiences, some may feel uncomfortable (or even intimidated) communicating with teachers and administrators. Oppositely, some parents believe they can get what they want if they call the Principal and “get angry.”
Teachers and administrators should use paper communication at the start of the year to open the conversation. Share your number, email address, Facebook page, or blog to give parents options. Be specific about the purpose of each medium and be invitational about feedback. I often like to end list-serve messages with “please let me know if there is anything we can do to support the success of your student.”
You Can’t Over-Communicate
The majority of adults today get their “news” from the Internet, email, and social media. Use these tools to your advantage. Use mediums such as Facebook and Twitter to highlight the great things happening at your school and classroom.
Keep a regular pattern of communication for your list-serve email group or blog. If using a site or email, we need to provide reasons to look. By keeping a pattern of communication (ex: updating every Monday), we help others understand when and where to get news about their school.
Lastly, be reasonably honest. It’s great to sing the praises of our school, but I try to also talk about the challenges we are trying to address for the benefit of accomplishing our vision for all students.
Find Common Purpose
Although the occasional email of praise is a blessing, parent-initiated communication sometimes comes from conflict. It is very easy to take a defensive posture and feel attacked. Don’t!
Imagine the student in question as your own child. Ask questions and paraphrase the statements to show understanding. Let the parent express frustration before explaining policy or background. It is not always possible to accommodate every request, but ultimately the parent should feel they were heard in a professional manner.
A good approach to addressing these types of conversations is to ask three questions: What is it they want? What is it I want? What is it we are both trying to accomplish for this child?
Communication helps parents build trust with the school. That trust is transferred to students, which leads to their increased investment in school. And remember, there is always room to improve two-way communication between educators and parents, so be ready to adapt your approach as new opportunities present themselves.
– Devin Padavil, Principal of Hendrickson High School