Good communication skills are imperative if you are to deal successfully with the administrators, teachers, and service personnel on your school campus—in both formal meetings and informal interactions.
- Assume the best of everyone.
- Operate with the assumption that everyone has the students’ best interests in mind.
- Remember that effective communication is the key to having your suggestions and ideas heard and taken seriously.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Take time to say “hello,” and listen to others as much as possible.
- Practice empathy and understanding.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Body language—a person’s stance and presence—speaks volumes, even if not a word is spoken.
- Determine whether your body language is in sync with your message.
- Make sure that your nonverbal signals match your words, so that you communicate clearly and are perceived as being approachable.
- Present yourself so that your posture communicates confidence, rather than making you appear unsure of yourself.
- Keep in mind that different people may perceive you differently: Your body language may be perceived differently by men and women, or by different cultural groups.
- Practice eye contact.
- Analyze your physical proximity to the person you are talking with, how your arms are positioned, and the way your facial features convey what you are thinking.
- Try to stay neutral in professional conversations.
Interactions that are unassuming and clearly understood will be perceived as positive communication.
- Assume a neutral frame of reference when you go into a meeting.
- Don’t form an opinion or frame a response before you hear from all of the participants in a meeting (potentially every member of the grade-level team, the parents, the administrators, and the support staff).
- Listen carefully. Misunderstandings usually occur when we don’t listen.
- Respond with a coherent, quick, informed, and honest reply.
- Avoid speaking in a negative tone of voice. Speak so as to have your ideas acknowledged, rather than disregarded because of a negative attitude.
- Be open to learning. No one enjoys a “know-it-all.”
When in doubt, ask!
- Ask about something that you don’t understand, or at least make a note about it so you can ask later.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for explanations, descriptions, and definitions, or about scenarios being discussed.
- If you ask your question politely, no one will take offense. People will appreciate your interest, and your question will remind them to use teacher-friendly language.
It is good to show consideration for others in a meeting by having everything you need with you and ready to use.
- Demonstrate your professionalism by being thoroughly prepared for a meeting.
- Prepare a list of questions or comments you want to address in advance. Include problems that need to be discussed and situations you need to have clarified.
- Come to meetings with all the materials you might need, so that the group can adhere to the agenda.
Being on Time
Being on time for a meeting allows all participants to be productive and efficient.
- Be on time for all meetings, even if you have to interrupt what you are doing to get there. (An exception might be if a parent has come to see you.)
- Remember that if you are running late, you should excuse yourself to alert whoever is expecting you that you will not arrive on time.
- Realize that because schools run on tight schedules, starting a meeting just five minutes late can throw it into a tailspin, since people may feel the need to rush through it. This is especially true for before-school meetings.
- Avoid causing hard feelings with other people (for example, administrators or fellow teachers), because your late arrival holds up a decision or causes someone else to run late.