Communication between parents and educators is a good thing — no one would argue that. When families and schools share their expectations, their values about learning and behavior, and their views on roles and responsibilities, students learn more and both parents and school personnel feel supported and appreciated. The positive feelings and mutual trust that result should not be underestimated, as they are ingredients to success for students, especially those who struggle with learning.
Open avenues for communication, however, are not always easy to establish. Parents, for any number of reasons, are often unfamiliar with the intricacies of the school day, homework routines, assessment activities and procedures for grading and evaluating student progress. Teachers are often unaware of a child's particular family circumstances (e.g., care providers, language and cultural considerations) that directly impact learning. Sharing this type of information could pave the way for more in-depth and targeted discussions about students with learning disabilities (LD) and the kinds of services and supports they need to succeed in school.
What Kind of Communicator are You?
I once heard a colleague mention that there are four kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, those who don't know that anything is happening, and those who try to keep anything from happening. He went on to explain that one of the most difficult challenges faced by organizations (including schools) is figuring out how to create opportunities for frequent, honest and productive communication, taking into consideration that the people involved can usually be described by their level of engagement:
- Engaged: these are folks who actively seek to share information and receive feedback; they feel a profound connection to their cause and are open to discussion, problem-solving and innovation
- Non-engaged: this describes individuals who are essentially "going through the motions," putting time and energy into their work but not with the passion that earns them respect (and gets results)
- Actively Disengaged: these people are often unhappy and dissatisfied with having to work cooperatively with others; they may (or may not) intend to undermine the efforts of others, but their lack of interest and engagement creates bad feelings and makes it very difficult for others to get things done.
Think about the lines of communication you have established for yourself regarding your child's education, and reflect upon the types of interactions that you have (e.g., with your child, with classroom teachers, at IEP meetings). Are you "engaged" when it comes to your child's English studies but "disengaged" with regard to math? Do you perceive that some of your child's teachers are more "engaged" than others, and might this be having an impact on his or her confidence level or willingness to seek help? Given all of the different people and personalities that comprise your network of support, wouldn't it be great to have some way of organizing your thinking and planning? Read on!
You Can't Tell the Players without a Scorecard
There is a famous (and for those readers who are not familiar with it, hilarious) comedy routine done by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello where confusion abounds as they are discussing the names of baseball players and the positions they play.
|Abbott: Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third...
Costello: That's what I want to find out.
Abbott: I say Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.
Costello: Are you the manager?
Costello: You gonna be the coach too?
Costello: And you don't know the fellows' names?
Abbott: Well I should.
Costello: Well then who's on first?
Costello: I mean the fellow's name.
Costello: The guy on first.
Costello: The first baseman.
Costello: The guy playing...
Abbott: Who is on first!
Costello: I'm asking YOU who's on first.
Abbott: That's the man's name.
Costello: That's who's name?
Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.
Abbott: That's it.
Costello: That's who?
If you read the Abbott and Costello dialogue above aloud, you are sure to feel the frustration that can result from unproductive and faulty communication. What does this have to do with students with LD? Unfortunately, parents and school personnel are at times not successful in connecting with each other in ways that allow for effective sharing and cooperative planning. Even during IEP meetings where parents are, by law, equal partners with school personnel, important questions are sometimes overlooked and issues not discussed, resulting in disappointment, frustration, and a breakdown in the behind-the-scenes partnership that is so critical for student success.