Using effective communication skills in our learning environments will promote student voice, equity, balance, literacy skills, and academic success!
I am currently Instructing a College Course in Psychology that promotes key counselling skills via Desire2Learn LMS. I am able to work with a cohort of amazing candidates who are not in the education profession. I have to say that it is refreshing and their key insights are able to provide me with new perspectives in my role as an educator. It truly amazes me how many people outside of the education system demonstrate humility, openness and willingness to learn new skills. What a wonderful thing to be humble in the face of working with other people to help them get through times of crisis and stress. A true representation of a ‘Growth Mindset‘. Isn’t this what many students, parents, and families bring to us each and every day? We do not know each situation, nor can we make assumptions.
Yet, I also cannot help to reflect on some of the differences between working with people from the teaching profession, and working with people from other professions.
My experiences as a parent and a teacher have demonstrated that in certain instances, due to many factors, educators can come across, and even come to believe that we always have to have all of the answers, and that we understand everything. This is a position of power that can be abused when we are working with parents. These attitudes can also be experienced as ongoing colonization and forcing students of different cultural backgrounds to assimilate to our own particular beliefs about what education should ‘look’ like.
4 key skills from the Counselling profession that I believe need to be reinforced in education include:
1. Attending behaviours, active listening, eye contact & body language, compassion.
- This sounds like a cliché, but the families in our communities come from a range of backgrounds, experiences and knowledge bases. To assume that as an educator, we have all of the answers can be condescending and paternalizing. We must be open to working with parents and families as equals in the process. This naturally does not mean that we allow ourselves to be disrespected or victimized. However, we as educators need to be the ones who recognize that all families and situations are different, and that parents can, and should be able to share important knowledge about their children to help in their education. This includes cultural information, including integrating FNMI knowledge and practices into education, special educational needs, and sharing of supports and knowledge in the classroom. Our doors and minds need to be open.
2. Reframing statements.
- Negative feelings and thoughts about education don’t need to be met with resistance. Using attending skills, and questioning skills we can help parents, (and be open ourselves) to reframing situations in more positive ways for the sake of the students, and our children!
3. Setting boundaries to balance personal lives and work.
- Part of setting good boundaries, also includes being open and honest with ourselves about our biases, weaknesses, insecurities, and even being honest about what we know and don’t know. We simply do not know all that needs to be known. We have a knowledge base that we bring to education. It is the student voice, parents, families and communities that are necessary to build upon our knowledge bases to help us build meaningful programs. If we are stuck in our ways and stuck in our ideas that we alone have the answers and the ideas that work, this will only serve to alienate and reinforce a position of power over other parents.
4. Always educating ourselves.
- Not because we are released for PD, but because we have a genuine interest in understanding our communities and the cultures and voices in our classrooms and learning environments. We have a genuine interest in learning how to improve our programs. We are open to what others are doing, and want the best for all learners.
In closing, we do not need to be the expert on all types of situations and scenarios. Nor do we have to be experts on curriculum. We engage in the kinds of behaviours and attending skills that demonstrate respect and a genuine willingness to work with children, parents, families alike.
We are confident in our flexible pedagogies that allow for changes in the 21st century, and that include other voices, knowledge, culture, and expertise.
© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.