Friday, October 16, 2015

What do you say?

When teachers talk to the entire class about anything at all, we try to choose the best words to convey a consistent message to all the kids.  We want each child to understand our message without needing to provide 22 individual messages.  This is no easy task!  A few kids may not understand the actual words we choose.  A few kids understand each word exactly as we want them to.  A few kids hear a tone of voice or see body language that doesn't necessarily match the intended message.  When teachers talk to kids, it isn't easy to always get it right.  But we are human, right?

Sometimes we say things that shouldn't be said.  Sometimes we say them in a way that we shouldn't say them.  Sometimes, like humans do, we say things we shouldn't even say.  Sometimes.

 Almost always, teachers communicate quite well!

Think about all the things a teacher communicates during a day!  All of the instruction and redirection that is given.  All the questions that are asked and answered.  All the problem-solving between students.  All the professional discourse with peers.  All the conversation to help kids have productive conversation.  All the questions that help kids think.  Teachers communicate all day long, with so many people, about so many things.

And occasionally, teachers say something that just doesn't sound quite right.  Perhaps the volume was louder than it should have been,  Perhaps a "freakin" word or phrase was used that is considered inappropriate in some homes.  Perhaps a frustrating tone was voiced because...frustration happens.  How many times has your parent conference focused on things you said or the child said or the parent said, with hopes of clearing up miscommunication?  Or more commonly, making sure you still actually like the kid!  When teachers accidentally choose words that might be taken the wrong way, conversations with parents can focus on the the wrong topic.  When the tallest human in the classroom makes a rare communication error with a kid, it can be repaired rather easily between the teacher and the kid!  Regardless of these hopefully infrequent communication blunders, most of the time teachers communicate quite well!

The way things roll these days, many educators are forced to choose words under a microscope.  The need to be perfectly PC is overwhelming.  Fear of making a mistake dissuades many teachers from ever having a crucial conversation, no matter how necessary.  Often times, educators choose to avoid the most important topics of conversations because they don't want to offend anyone or deal with the sometimes exhausting repercussions of minor miscommunication.

By nature, sugar-coating happens when we talk about kids.  By nature, we see our kids through lenses of hope and success and optimism.  But occasionally, we need to speak frankly.  We need to address the current reality with fierce determination to make things better.  And the fear of offending someone occasionally gets in the way.

The fear is not only with parents, but with other educators too.  Professional conversation gets real when two passionate educators hit a hot topic.  Can the conversation be professional and passionate?  Absolutely!  The problem comes when one of the professionals sees a differing opinion as an insult.  Two passionate educators with different opinions and one or both of them gets offended.

Really though, this entire profession is couched on excellent communication.  When misunderstanding happen, they are almost always repaired when both parties approach the "fix" with an open heart.  On that rare occasion when a teacher may say something that doesn't sound quite right, please remember the other 687 things they said quite well!  Perfect doesn't happen too often, but most teachers are pretty darn close!

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