Communication is the foundation for many things. I have learned in my first six months of teaching that it often takes precedence over most other “must haves.” Communication is pivotal in reaching students, maximizing the impact of a strategy, and getting along with coworkers. Communication also happens to be one of the largest areas of frustration for a new teacher like me.
I came into a system with established systems and unspoken rules that I wasn’t told about in my orientation to the school. The only way to really figure it out has been trial and error. The error part got to be tough for a while, but after the break I seem to be doing much better about asking the right people the right questions and abiding by the many non-spoken rules.
As we prepare for our IEP blitz, when we update every student’s IEP in the spring to prepare them for the next year, I’m also preparing to write my first transition plans that include assigning students to schools out of their normal home school and coordinating that with all the necessary district level staff. I also have had to work on updating parents with student progress towards IEP goals, grades from last semester, and maintaining my relationships with them.
It’s amazing how much less stressful my job feels even though the work seems to be more demanding now that we are approaching the great blitz, testing season, field trips, and my own extracurricular activities. I think it boils down to communication. I am much more conscious of everyone who is involved with the many processes and keeping them all aware of things without seeming insolent.
I have learned that is best to e-mail each person individually instead of copying them, and to be very short and two the point without a lot of back story. They seem to appreciate the personal nature of a private e-mail and the directness (while maintaining politeness), and that I understand their days are busy, too.
Also, with parents, I have found that those follow-up and touching-base phone calls and e-mails go a long way. Through the hustle and bustle last semester I failed to send “good job” notes and phone calls home to maintain a positive relationship with my parents. I have noticed that once I take the time to call each parent after the break and hold a casual conversation with them, they have been more involved and proactive than ever.
That is especially helpful as I get my students readjusted to the school routine after the break. The highlight of this small success had to be a parent calling me today on her way home with our student. She reported that he had an incident with another student in one of his co-taught classes and that they both really wanted me to know.
I gave her my cell phone number so that if she ever had any questions or if he ever had an incident that I didn't know about, she could let me know so that we can all work together to solve the problem. After we talked today I felt empowered in that I have facilitated a fundamental change for my student. He started this year not communicating his feelings and experiences and now actively seeks me out to help him solve a problem he is not sure how or if he should handle.
I have not yet mastered communication, and probably never will, however finally getting a handle on the methods that are used and what work best at my school and with my parents has greatly improved the quality of life for my students, their parents, my coworkers, and me.
What has been your experience with communication?