Communication Support for the Strangest Year Ever3
June 26, 2021 by Dr. Robbie Barber
This post is Week 3 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. The prompt for this week is: Describe new or additional supports your learners needed this year.
There is nothing like a pandemic to show you the holes in your communication system. Of all the supports we could add to our students and staff this year, shoring up those holes in the communication system is one of the most important. Part of finding those holes is asking the right questions. What do students need/ want to know? What do parents need/ want to know? What does staff need/ want to know? When does each group need/ want the information? How are they getting the information? And, how often should we repeat this information? The last is a step we often forget. Students do not learn by being told once. Why would communication be different? It is imperative to communicate in more than one way and repeat that communication in order for it to be effective (Gudykunst, 2012).
Here are just a few of things we (the principal, admin staff, teachers, and my team(!)) did to help put in these supports:
Principal’s Weekly Emails
This space will contain emails that Dr. Parker is sending to Parents during the COVID-19 Closure for Spring Semester 2021. They are in reverse order with the most recent at the top. Please remember that not all links will remain operational.
The principal put out an email message to all parents at least once a week. But many parents may have problems or changes to their emails. No problem. We added a web page with a running list of all of the principal’s emails. Every time one was sent out, it was copied and put at the top of a special page on the website. Social media notices went out once a month to remind parents that the emails were easily available on the website with a direct link.
Virtual Learning Page
In a normal year, students are added and withdrawn from the system constantly. Coming in this year was like coming into an alien planet. We provided a website page to help students and parents navigate. For the second semester, we added an online booklet to help them find their way around the online system.
Part of what is important here is to know how much joint effort went into to this. Some of the links and images were provided by the district. One of the science teachers provided the “Joining Google Classroom” image. Other webmasters and teacher-librarians offered their own sites with links we could use. This was by no means a static website – it changed as we learned more.
Google Classrooms for all Groups
Our school did a heavy commitment into Google Classrooms. I created a Google Classroom for each grade (Class of 2021, 22, 23, & 24) where I could provide general information, specific class information, and of course, important research and book information. The senior advisor was a teacher on the Class of 2021. The prom advisor handled the Class of 2022, etc. We also have the Faculty Lounge for teachers to access materials and discuss issues.
Note: This picture added Class of 2025 after I archived 2021 as we get ready to start the next school year. While we expect to be fully in-person during the next school year, why throw a way a great resource??
Tiger’s Tissue Tabloid (Again)
With teacher support and encouragement, I sent out a newsletter each week. This is our normal #PottyPD that hung in the staff bathrooms. Now it is emailed at 7:30 am Monday mornings. (I love the ability in Outlook email to schedule an email!) It is also posted to the Google Classroom Faculty Lounge to reference later. We (and yes, it is a team effort!) focused on questions that had occurred during the week to provide the most current information in using technology. And, sometimes, we just provided encouragement and laughter in our regular memes.
Find the laughter.
One thing that we know all teachers, students, and staff needed this year was some humor. Remember, when you are head-down, working hard, trying to organize your teaching, a little humor goes a long way.
The one support item I felt was never enough was managing email accounts. We needed to help teachers, and especially students, learn how to use the tool to its full extent. We needed to show students where their email account is. And, we did so little to help them with daily checks, organization, and responses. Do not assume that students can manage it without some help. This is where I hope we will put our efforts next.
Gudykunst, W. B. (2012). Bridging differences: Effective intergroup communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
I love how your principal and you sent out weekly newsletters. Also, I love your idea of humor. Kids had a hard time dealing with all the adjustments. You went the extra mile by being available with all those Google classrooms! That’s a lot to manage! I hope you’re enjoying some relaxation!
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[…] work-related stress” (Abstract, Pignata et al., 2015). I worried a lot about general communication support (my research interest), but this is moving off topic. […]
I strongly agree with your statement:
“Students do not learn by being told once. Why would communication be different? It is imperative to communicate in more than one way and repeat that communication in order for it to be effective (Gudykunst, 2012).”
Thank you for sharing your strategies this past year!
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