Thursday, September 19, 2013

Communication & Two Other Keys

photo by Brenda Clarke
Communication is at the core of educational partnerships. Communication between students and teachers, between teachers and parents, and between teachers and administrators.

Throughout the past couple of weeks, I have heard from teachers, parents, administrators and students about the TeacherEase system. While some of the comments have been frustrations about the getting the setup of the new system right, most of the comments have been excitement about the communication of the new system. Using TeacherEase for announcements has been a great convenience on the building level as well as the classroom level. Some teachers have also looked into alternative ways to text parents and students. Modeling good communication skills is imperative for educators. The following has always been a good guide to follow in electronic communications:

  • Typing in all caps looks like yelling and is not received in a positive manner. If you woulld like to emphasize a word, bold or italicize it.
  • Emotion and tone of voice are lost in written communication. Reread what you wrote before sending - polite wording and precise text are important in effective communication.
  • Sarcasm in emails and text messages may be interpreted negatively and may be detrimental to your message. Be professional in written communication and save attempts at humor for face-to-face communication.
  • Grammar and spelling are important in written communication - your message is better received if it is professional.
  • Communicate in a timely manner, but consider that multiple messages in a short time frame confuse/irritate the reader - be sure to get it right the first time. Keep in mind that mistakes happen, but double-checking communication before sending makes rare mistakes forgivable.
Time Management is important for teachers, students, and administrators. Modeling good time management skills is important for leaders (whether they be teachers or administrators). Everyone involved in the educational process is busy.

Administrators are stretched thin with student meetings, teacher meetings, business meetings, and parent meetings - and somewhere in there they strive to connect with both teachers and students to ensure that the school is running smoothly and the educational process is functioning properly.

Teachers are stretched thin with student/parent meetings, professional development, school improvement meetings, state mandated requirements/standards alignments, and somewhere in there they teach not only academic lessons to students, but also promote character development and teach social skills that will benefit students in their futures.

Students are stretched thin with academic lessons, homework, extracurricular events (school related, church related, and youth group related), and somewhere in there they are preparing themselves for a  future career in a field that may or may not yet be created.

In each case time management skills are essential. Tips for time management and managing tasks are

  • Maintain a calendar that holds you accountable for meetings, due dates, etc. by providing notifications of upcoming events or deadlines. I use iCalendar and share it with my family. We have categories that include Home, Work (mine), Allie (my oldest daughter's activities), Willa (my youngest daughter's activities), PirateDJ (my disc jockey business meetings and events), and Jr. Blues (our season ticket NAHL games - fun time is important, too).
  • Have a system for a "to do" list. I use Trello to determine what I need to do and to prioritize those activities. I am also able to use Trello to collaborate with groups of people on activities that I am working on. Find a system that works for you and adapt it to your needs.
  • Finally, in your hectic daily routine, schedule blocks of time that will include both spiritual and family time. If other activities are affecting either of these areas, consider ways to reorganize your schedule to allot more time to spiritual time and family time.
Student Involvement in the educational process is just common sense. Even though some students and teachers joke about Mr. Ward's motto for the year, "Own it," as being cheesy, those same students and teachers generally are taking charge of the educational process.

In creating a high school Student Tech Team, I have watched the students take pride in the condition and functionality of the school's technology. Student tech team members have cleaned up the operating systems of four of the computer labs at the high school and are taking pride in the school's devices. Students are becoming protective of the hardware owned by the school - helping ensure that the hardware is treated appropriately and with respect.

Students run the high school website and students need to ensure that classroom devices are cared for. Students need to be responsible for properly storing devices in mobile carts and ensuring they are treated with care. Providing students with the expectations and reminding them through regular reminders of those expectations will ensure that the students will continue to respect the devices that they are using. As we move forward, lessons in Digital Citizenship will become a priority as we move forward with 21st Century Education.

Next Steps for each building will include

  • finalizing the setup of educational software in each building
  • the continuation of the roll-out of teacher laptops to replace antiquated devices
  • assistance with technology needs as they arise
The District Technology Committee is meeting on Monday, September 23. The committee will explore the needs of the district, including wireless internet access for each building, a Bring Your Own Technology Policy, Digital Citizenship education, and the outlook of preparing the district for a program that provides a device for each student.