This is the first in a series of articles entitled 5 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers.
Without question, one of the most essential elements of any good relationship is clear and open communication. As a teacher, practically everything that we do in the classroom is communication in one sense or another.
With this in mind, it becomes evident why communication procedures are the most important skills for us to develop.
I have previously written regarding some positive ways to communicate with others. This article is well worth the reading. However this time, we’ll look at some procedures that can be set up that will facilitate greater communication.
The first step to more effective communication is to eliminate unnecessary informational inputs from your life. We have to do this first by getting organized. Since I’ve written about this before, I’ll summarize very briefly here
How do we eliminate information?
- Inbox – Have one place where all incoming physical information goes and process it no more than once a day.
- Email – Do not leave emails in your inbox after you are finished with them. Email responses generally yield more emails, so be conservative with responses.
- Trash Can – In most cases, when in doubt, throw it out.
- Phone – Don’t answer it during business hours. Emergencies usually end up being solved without your intervention. If you are necessary, one phone call will not be the only attempt to reach you!
But aren’t there exceptions?
Absolutely. We can’t delete questions from parents or administrators. I have put together a prioritized list (from my standpoint) of important people. The lower they are on the totem pole, the less necessary communication is with them. If they’re not on the list, communication is usually not vital.
So I’ve eliminated, now how do I communicate better?
- Answer every important email
Parents love knowing that their question is important to you. Even if it’s a rude email, be sure that you answer it in as peaceable way as you possibly can. I had an irate parent who emailed me while I was at a convention. I happened to check my email that evening and responded immediately. I told her I was at a convention, but the person who could help was also at the convention. I subsequently had lunch with him the next day, we laughed about the problem, and solved it. I got back from the convention and had a lovely email from her telling me she knew I would solve it.
- Return every important phone call
I get parents who leave voicemails asking me give their child a message. When I check my voicemails at the end of the day, obviously the message has already been taken care of. I usually will return the phone call anyway and apologize for not getting the message sooner, and then I make sure everything turned out well. It did. If you don’t respond, someone else will. Showing genuine concern is priceless.
- Encourage communication
Tell the students to email you an interesting article or something. Have them leave voicemails at school over the weekend explaining something. Give extra credit for an email about something cool that happened at school this week. If you have a way to get a website on your school district’s server, do that. Make it look cool, and prominently feature contact information. I don’t give out personal contact information freely, however. School email and phone for school business.
- Set up a blog
Even if your school district allocates you webspace, I like the functionality of a blog. Feedburner allows you to set up email lists very easily. I personally emailed out every blog post I made last year, but will no longer be doing that. I’ve made the sign-up form very easy and will encourage students and parents to sign up. I may send out email updates to administrators and secretaries still.