Communication with Consideration for Teachers

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August 20, 2016 by Dr. Robbie Barber

The school year is off and running in Georgia and many of us start out with the same problem. Too much information, all at once, with difficulty sorting through the priorities. I promise you I let some things slide while I work on urgent and then forget. It’s not you, it’s me.  Really!  Or is it?

I poured out time and energy to order classroom books last year. I had over 30 boxes loaded in my office for the start of school. Each book was checked, stamped and separated by grade level and laid out on display for the teachers. The hours it took to do all this in a very short period of time were hard, but I thought the goal worthy. Then I told the teachers to come and shop (for free) for their classrooms. 8th grade came and loved it. Most of 7th grade came and loved it. One 6th grade teacher – out sick – asked if I would do her box. No one else came from that grade. I was upset, mad, sending emails and heartbroken that they couldn’t come get free books.  Everything had to be cleaned up by the next day to allow students in the Media Center.  On Friday, just on a whim, I decided to check the email list I had been sending to: Language Arts Teachers.  I know how to look at who is on the list.  Guess what?  The list is wrong.  Two teachers from last year were on it and four teachers from this year were not. (The list is maintain by technical support.)

Here’s my simple suggestion: communicate with consideration and empathy.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and decide what they probably know and what they might be missing.  Then look at all the possible forms of sharing information.  You can email, print a note, link to a website, talk to someone, present at a meeting, text, speak over the intercom, do an interpretative dance, … Just want to see if you’re still reading.  Not all material needs to presented the same way and not all of the teachers will receive it the same way. Some gets lost and it’s frustrating to the sender.

Sometimes we state that XYZ will be turned in this format/method.  Is that easy for teachers?  Do they know how?  Just. because you’re an expert with a software package does not mean that everyone else is.  I’ve created a printed brochure for teachers with some of the key softwares and information in the Media Center.  I hand one out when they ask “how do I?” and circle the area they’re asking about.  The same person will come in the next day looking to do something else.  I pick up another copy of the same brochure and circle the new area.  On average, it takes two brochures to one person to get them to look at the whole thing.  That’s okay.  It’s nice to know the answer is available and my teachers can know where to go to ask questions in a safe environment.

Yes, I may have ignored your email in an effort to deal with the ones with short deadlines.  That’s human nature.  I forgot to get back to it. That’s human nature too.  Now, how you respond, how we have a conversation is what matters.  And, please, don’t be mad.  I’ll try not to be too.

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