happy family in office at the professional

Steps to Creating School-Parent Partnerships

WHY Create Partnerships?

  • Research tells us parents and school districts must create partnerships in order to maximize their children’s development, learning, and success in school.
  • Partnerships are essential!
  • Partnerships can only be created when everyone understands the skills and learns how to use these skills when interacting with each other.
  • Conversations build trust and transparency, which leads to partnerships.

 HOW to Create Partnerships?

  • Meet with administrators to determine what is currently in place
  • Have ‘workshop/conversations’ with parents and educators
    • Gather information regarding the District’s perspective
    • Gather information regarding the Parents’ perspective
    • Bring the two groups together to share information
  • Create an Action Plan to build, support, improve Home-School Partnerships
  • Create a team of parents and educators to facilitate Action Plan Implementation
  • Provide workshops to promote ongoing school-family communication
    • Suggested Topics to foster Home-School Partnerships
      • Effective Communication Skills
      • Understanding the “Language of Education”
      • Understanding How to Interpret Student Achievement
      • Learning Styles
      • How to Have Meaningful Conversations
      • Being a Skillful Listener

It’s More Than What You Say; It’s How You Say It.

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Avoid Email and Texting Misunderstandings

At one time or another most of us have had to backpedal in order to correct a mistake or misunderstanding resulting from a hastily written and sent email. At the ‘beginning of emailing,’ you may have been writing to someone on the same server. That meant you could click ‘un-send’ if you realized the email had errors or set the wrong tone. If you were lucky, the person hadn’t read the email so your problem was solved. Even though un-send isn’t an option today, we usually don’t realize there is a problem until the person responds to our email or text.

Following best practice can help avoid a large number of these problems. Yet, many people never re-read their emails or use spell check their document. They write as though the person was standing in front of them. Here are a few helpful tips when emailing and texting.

1. Always read and re-read every email/text before you send it

Responding in the moment isn’t best practice. Take time to craft what you want to say. After writing the email/text, read it, edit it, and possibly completely re-write it.

Following this practice is essential when writing to business professionals, clients, and professional colleagues. The best way to develop this habit is to do it whenever writing an email or text, even to friends or family. It only takes a few extra minutes; yet it can help you avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. You will avoid sending an unintended message.

Recently I wasn’t feeling well. I was stressed and distracted, but still tried to clear everything from my ‘to-do’ list. In my haste, I didn’t follow this rule and it led to an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation.

2. Spell and grammar check your all correspondence

You have only 3 seconds to make a great first impression. Do you want that first impression to be based on a spelling or grammar error in an email or text? Having a disclaimer at the bottom of an email doesn’t change the fact that you misspelled a word or used the wrong tense in your sentence.

Take pride in what you are writing; it says a lot about who you are. If you aren’t paying attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it, how does your client, customer or colleague know you will pay attention to details related to work?

3. Remember email and texting aren’t conversations

What you write must be both concise and clear. The person reading your email will probably have written and answered tens of emails between the first one you sent and the follow-up. They may not know or remember what you are referring to.

Avoid saying ‘thanks,’ ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘I agree’ and other such comments when responding to an email without clarifying your statement. Those words need to be attached to the reason you are making the comment. ‘Thanks for the introduction to John Smith.’ ‘Yes, I can make the 9:00 a.m. meeting at Starbucks.’ ‘No, Friday won’t work for me, but next Tuesday would be perfect.’

The reader won’t have to go back and find your last email or re-read all of the emails that are attached to the current one. The reader won’t feel confused and your intended message will be delivered.

4. Tell ‘why’ when commenting, making a request, or replying to a statement

I always told my students they needed to tell my why, which lead them to believe my favorite word was ‘because.’

By explaining and supporting a statement, the reader will understand your thinking. The tone of an email is in the mind of the reader. You want the reader to clearly understand what you are saying, which avoids confusion and averts an argument.

Avoid accusing the other person. ‘Why would you…?’ If discussing a sensitive or difficult matter, try to use softer words.  When writing about feelings, beliefs or values it is helpful to use I statements rather than You statements. Sometimes adding emoji can help set the tone and prevent any misunderstandings.

5. Call the person rather than lots of back and forth emails/texts

Email and texting have a time and place. We probably can’t live without them. Yet they aren’t really a conversation, which is defined as a back and forth of spoken words. When a message is read vs. heard, the speaker’s tone is in the mind of the reader. This may result in an unintended message being delivered. It is important that the message sent is the message received. By placing a phone call and having a conversation, the intended message is more likely to be delivered and in a more timely manner.

6. The goal is to effectively communicate!

Effective Communication will only occur when verbal and non-verbal messages are in sync. This means speakers/listeners have the opportunity to ask questions, clarify comments, and make statements. Words are less than 10% of any message. So when the message is only what is written, the majority of the message is not being delivered. This can easily lead to misinterpretation. If you are only emailing and texting, even if you think you are having a conversation, you aren’t. So in order to have an effective conversation and avoid a message is misunderstood or misinterpreted, pick up the phone or if possible arrange a face to face meeting. 

 

Elements of Effective Communication

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” People often say ‘I explained that.’ or ‘I told them…’ Yet, they never checked to make sure that their message was understood by their listener. Did they effectively and clearly deliver their message?

Effective communicators need to listen when they speak and speak when they listen. Communication is much more than ‘I talk and you listen and you talk and I listen.’ It is therefore crucial that speakers and listeners understand the different aspects of communication. It is also important that when a message is sent (spoken) the sender checks to make sure the message is both heard and understood.

The basic characteristics of communication include your words, the vocal qualities accompanying your words, and all non-verbal behaviors connected to the communication. Although your words are only 7% of any message, it is critical they are easily understood. Therefore, to avoid any miscommunication don’t use jargon or abbreviations.

When speaking, the vocal properties of any message are even more important than the words. They are 38% of the message versus the 7% that are your words. The term vocal refers to enunciation, tone, rate, pacing, and volume. The vocal aspects of your message will ensure your words are understood. Be careful that your vocal aspects don’t cause the message to be misunderstood. Speaking too fast or too slowly, too loud or too softly can compromise a message. Stressing different words can easily change the message’s meaning.

More than half of any message is delivered non-verbally (55%). Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, posture, and gestures. Having a big smile on your face when speaking and looking at the person are two of the most important non-verbal aspects of any communication. A welcoming handshake can set the tone for a meaningful conversation. Since non-verbal gestures can be heard over the phone, remember to smile whenever you answer the phone. It sets the tone for your conversation. Effective communication takes practice because it is not an innate skill.

 

Creating School-Parent Partnerships

Wyoming

Peggy Bud presented at the Wyoming Department of Education’s June 2015 Leadership Symposium in Riverton, Wyoming. She spoke on “HOW TO CREATE SCHOOL-PARENT PARTNERSHIPS, which will lead to transparency.  This transparency builds trust. If families and educators are equal participants, they are more likely to work together, listen to each other’s perspective, and use evidence-based data to drive instruction and to develop programs. Through their partnerships, parents and educators will be able to maximize the students’ potential.

showmethemoney

Show Me The Evidence

As a former school administrator and an Education and Communication Consultant, I have worked with families who are angry and are ready for a fight. My goal has always been to help families look for ‘the evidence’ that supports their claim or the district’s claim.

Where is ‘the evidence?’ How does a parent know their child could be performing at a higher level? Why does a district believe a student does not qualify for special education supports and services? Why do parents believe the supports and services being provided are inappropriate or inadequate? What is ‘the evidence?’

Now that I have your attention, think back to the movie Jerry Maguire. Remember when Rod Tidwell tells Jerry to say “Show me the money” if he wants him to remain as his agent. What Rod is looking for is ‘evidence’ that Jerry can deliver what he says he can deliver.

Parents should be asking their districts the same question. Districts should be asking families the same question. When either side makes a claim that the child is or isn’t making progress or that the program or services are or are not appropriate, they need to back up their claim with ‘evidence.’ Where was the child performing; what’s the baseline-data? Where is the child currently performing; what’s his/her present level of performance?

Best practice says data should be used to make instructional decisions. Assessment drives instruction. Data driven practices are what businesses uses to improve their bottom line. Evidence-based data is what educators should be using to plan, develop and monitor a child’s program. It is the data that should be driving the conversations.

As an administrator, I held my staff accountable. When teachers reported to parents that the student was making progress, I asked for the data. I didn’t want to hear subjective statements. I wanted evidence going from baseline to current level of performance. When advising families, I tell them to ask for the data or to produce data that supports their position. Data is what should be driving their conversations. It is much more difficult to argue with the facts.

Recently I had a client who felt their child was not making progress. They felt the early intervention strategies were not working. In their opinion, their child was not learning to write and required special education services. They felt he was struggling academically and emotionally. They requested an IEP meeting to discuss their concerns and to request a comprehensive evaluation. At the meeting, the district didn’t argue with the family. Instead the teacher used ‘evidence,’ a story the child had recently written, to demonstrate how the regular education supports were in fact working. As the teacher read the child’s story to the team, the parents cried with joy. They realized the strategies were working; their child was making significant progress as shown by ‘the evidence.’ It was ‘the evidence’ that drove the conversation during the rest of the meeting. Together parents and educators discussed the best way to continue to provide the child with supports to close the achievement gap.

On the other hand, I had another family who produced ‘evidence’ that their child was not making progress. Their claim was the district was not providing their child with an appropriate program. For the past two years the district kept presenting the same ‘evidence’ to support their position. It was ‘this evidence’ that highlighted the parent’s claim regarding the inappropriateness of the program. In the end, it was data that drove the conversation and enabled the family and school district to work together to develop an appropriate program for the child.

It’s all about objectivity vs. subjectivity. Trust comes when you can ‘show the money.’ My advice to both parents and districts is to use ‘evidence based data’ to drive their conversations and decisions. This is the best way to ensure that students are getting the supports and services they require to access the general education curriculum and close the achievement gap.

 It’s more than what you say; it’s how you say it.

Peggy Bud provides consultative services to parents. She coaches families on how to effectively communicate with their school district. She teaches parents how to effectively advocate for their child. Peggy can be reached at Peggy@PeggyBud.com or via telephone 203.952.8534. Learn more at her web site: www.PeggyBud.com

 

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