Communicating Effectively Within Positive Education Partnerships

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

In education, partnerships between teachers and parents, professionals, school and community groups, and others often exist to benefit young children. This lesson focuses on ways to communicate effectively to help these partnerships succeed.

What Is Effective Communication?

Kara is a third-grade teacher who often fails to communicate effectively with her students' parents. For instance, she tells parents of students who struggle with reading things such as, 'Your child is a terrible reader.' Parents are likely to react with anger and emotion to comments such as these. In short, Kara needs help with effective communication.

The key to success in any partnership is effective communication. Effective communication is a process of sharing information between partners so that each clearly understands an issue and the possible solutions. With this idea in mind, let's see why effective communication is important and explore ways to exercise it.

Who Benefits from Effective Communication?

Effective communication benefits not only the partners' relationships but, in education, it often benefits young children because the ultimate goal of education is to serve the student population. Let's now see how the members of a relationship in education can communicate in effective ways.

Ways to Communicate Effectively

First, let's remember that communication in education can involve partnerships between teachers and parents, professionals, school and community groups, and others. Elements of effective communication include:

Using Appropriate Language

When her supervisor speaks to Kara about the need to communicate effectively with parents, Kara feels confused because she has always valued crystal-clear, straightforward language. While Kara is partly correct, she can benefit from learning that effective communication relies also on appropriate words, which are a mixture of professional terminology with positive words. Instead of saying, 'Your child is a terrible reader,' Kara could say, 'Claire's reading skills need improvement at the moment.'

Thus, a first way to communicate effectively is to use language that clearly states a problem but is also appropriate because the words are tactful and professional. This is a skill that professionals can exercise by keeping in mind that they are speaking to a partner in a work relationship, and thus, an obligatory level of diplomacy is required.

Making Sure the Issue Is Clear

Even when Kara says, 'Claire's reading skills need improvement at the moment,' Claire's parents are not sure what Kara means because they do not have a clear understanding of what 'reading skills' are. Kara explain that reading skills are the set of abilities a reader needs to fully enjoy reading, such as comprehension, correct pace with punctuation, etc. Kara even reads a passage to parents to demonstrate how a student in their child's grade is expected to read, and then gives an example of how a student reads who is not at that level.

When you give examples and simple definitions of concepts that are not necessarily clear to other people in the partnership, you make an issue easier to understand. Once an issue is clearly understood by the members in a partnership, the communication is more relaxed and able to flow.

Speaking Based on Common Goals

Kara has a new opportunity to meet with parents. This time, Kara remembers that she and the parents all want the children in the class to succeed academically. Thus, Kara uses this common goal as a basis for her conversations. She says things such as, 'We both want your son to learn,' or 'Our goal is to get your daughter to the reading level for her age,' for example.

This shows us that partnerships always occur because a common goal is in place. Otherwise, there would not be a partnership. In short, all communication among partners should be based on what both wish to achieve.

Staying Open to All Solutions

Kara tells Claire's parents that a possible solution to improving Claire's reading skills is to include her in an after-school program specifically designed to develop reading skills. However, Claire's parents do not want her to stay after school. They prefer her to go home. They offer to have a tutor at home who can help Claire with her reading skills. Kara understands but makes sure to point out the advantages of the after-school program, such as the fact it is at no cost for the parents.

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