Communicating Student Issues to Education Stakeholders

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss appropriate responses a teacher may make to a parent or guardian, community member, another educator, or a student in various difficult situations like bullying, discrimination, reporting abuse, safety issues, and attendance issues.

Student Issues

John F. Kennedy once said that the Chinese character for the word 'crisis' loosely translates to 'danger' and 'opportunity'. While this may not be the most faithful translation, it is a helpful idea when thinking of how to navigate handling difficult conversations about students who are experiencing a crisis. Issues like bullying, discrimination, reporting abuse, safety issues, and attendance problems can create a crisis for students. Teachers can help interested parties recognize these potentially dangerous situations as opportunities for growth.

Let's look at some general tips for effectively communicating with stakeholders the various issues a student may face to prevent these situations from causing a crisis.

Communication Tips

Any time a student is involved in difficult circumstances, there is a chance that feelings can become elevated. In these times when emotions can run high, it's helpful to remember coregulation. Coregulation is a form of mirror behavior that occurs because people tend to mimic each other's tone and mannerisms, affecting each other emotionally. You can use this phenomenon to your advantage by remaining calm in the face of someone else's volatile state.

For example, you are talking with Joey, a student with repeated tardiness. Feeling defensive, Joey begins to speak louder in harsh tones. Respond by lowering your own voice and speaking in an even, measured tone to de-escalate the tension. Our natural response is to mirror their elevated tone; if you reflect your frustration with Joey, it increases his irritation and escalates tensions. Instead, learn to become a more calm reflection for Joey to assimilate. Being in control of your own emotions can help control the tone of the interaction.

Another tip is to remember your audience and their needs. Whoever you are communicating with may have different goals or needs that you can help address. Cater the message to the audience so that you understand the dynamics of the interaction from the perspective of who you are communicating with. Let's look at the teacher's role in using these skills with specific audiences and the different needs or goals represented by each of these groups.

With Parents or Guardians

Communicating a student's issues with their parents or guardians can be very difficult. It is important to avoid assigning blame or responding inappropriately to feelings of parental guilt. As a teacher, your role may be to debunk the myths about student issues, so provide information and research to dismantle stigmatizing effects with factual evidence.

A student's guardian can be a powerful source of information about what is happening with a student. Open lines of communication can provide observations about the student's home life. In Joey's case, the family could tell you he is late when he misses the bus and has to get a ride. Families can also be role models to students so teachers can help families understand the situation to help strengthen familial bonds and improve relations at home.

Unfortunately, a student's issues can be exacerbated or directly caused by relatives. In these cases, teachers can provide information and advocacy to encourage getting help for the family members who contribute to the problem. Of course, teachers are mandated reporters, so in cases of suspected child abuse, teachers must report their suspicions and provide evidence supporting their claim. It is possible that the state will conduct a safety investigation on behalf of the report, which can be made anonymously.

With Community Members

Community members can be powerful allies to intervene on behalf of students experiencing a crisis. Teachers can encourage community support in the form of donations, awareness campaigns, and volunteers to help with problems students commonly face. Teachers can work as recruiters to communicate student needs to those with the ability to address those needs.

Teachers must consider the privacy of individual students when sharing information with the community, so make sure that any testimonials or personal stories are made anonymous by removing identifying information about a student's specific issues. Speak in broad, general terms and include anonymous anecdotes to improve the power of the community recruitment messaging.

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