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- Choose to be a voice of educational authority.
- Communicate through technology and your students.
- Comment on the big purpose of schools.
- Get ahead of the potential crisis points.
- Speak to future employability factors.
The cult of expertise flooding the national schools conversation concerns me. These days it seems anybody who has walked past a school in the last three or four decades is fully qualified to comment on your decisions, your craft, your technical skill and your capacity for the task of educating.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw
I often joke that should merely using the system, even as a student a very long time ago, qualify you as an educational expert, then surely using a toilet qualifies you as a plumber! Further, this subjective criticism seems to be more pointed for teachers than for any other profession. You wouldn’t tell your doctor how to fix your injured knee, you wouldn’t tell your lawyer how to build her concluding remarks to a jury and you wouldn’t tell your mechanic the only way you wish your car to be serviced. You trust their expertise. And beyond the petty squabbles over the minutiae in all schools, it’s that absence of trust that is the root of this problem.
How do we begin the task of establishing a position of trust so that we don’t come under attack when an influential shock jock speaks up on the education issue of the week? There are four key actions that we can take:
- Communicate through non-traditional means
While shock jocks have a captive audience for the school run or the trip home from work, your school or class newsletter doesn’t achieve that. But what captures parents’ and carers’ attention more than anything is information about their children. Could you run a weekday webinar (recorded for those who can’t attend) about how parents and carers can help learning at home? Could you move on from print communication being your default means of communication?
- Talk about your purpose and your expertise
Eliminate all operational aspects that can be found out in other easy ways such as TiqBiz or SchoolStream from your key communicative devices. Talk about pedagogy and use the word, talk about learning outcomes, talk about contemporary learning approaches, talk about ICT integration and discuss how you are explicitly working with parents and carers to make their children empathetic and successful citizens.
- Get ahead of the game
Ensure that your parents and carers have heard multiple messages from you about your responses to behaviour choices, bullying, instructional style and your intentions for parental involvement before it is sensationalised. At crisis point, parents and carers become emotional and people can say outrageous, destructive and unproductive things when they are stressed. Therefore it is vital that we have information already in our heads to refer to. If there are no surprises when the challenges arise, then we’re far more likely to have parents and carers on our side.
- Speak to the future
Many parents and carers are referencing their questions on a very outdated view of what the educative purpose is, so it’s important to make distinctions between what school was for when they were there, and how it has changed since then. The Institute For The Future (University of Phoenix) recently released its Work Skills 2020 Report1 outlining the ten skills our students will need for their futures. These include:
- Sense Making
- Social Intelligence
- Novel and Adaptive Thinking
- Cross-Cultural Competency
- Computational Thinking
- New Media Literacy
- Design Mindset
- Cognitive Load Management
- Virtual Collaboration
These are particularly handy hooks and justifications for why a child’s educative experience needs to be very different from the one we all had. They make the differences in your approach compared with previous approaches far more valid.
In a nutshell, some parents and carers pay more attention to the voice on the radio than to ours because of the authority with which that voice speaks. That authority doesn’t come from years of expertise, from mountains of research or from synthesising and evaluating contemporary approaches. That authority is a choice – they’ve chosen it for themselves. Your positioning as an authority, as a trusted advisor and as an expert is a choice too. And that choice, that confidence, needs to shine through in your communications with parents and carers more than any mundane, operational task.
Link to FlexiBuzz (owner of Tiqbiz) for those who’d like to investigate further.
Bibliography: Flexibuzz.com.au. (2019). FlexiBuzz | The School app, club app, staff communication and community communication app for iPhones, iPads, Android phones & tablets. [online]
Available at: http://www.flexibuzz.com.au
Link to SchoolStream for those who’d like to investigate further.
Bibliography: School Stream. (2019). School App for iPhone, Android, iPad mobile | School Stream. [online]
Available at: https://www.schoolstream.com.au