VIGNETTES SERIES 8
Vignettes 26 – 28
ASK FOR HELP
One of the strongest attributes of the teaching profession is that of ‘fraternity’. Collegiality and sharing are elements of that togetherness. Unlike some occupations in which people feel they have to sit on problems or challenges and muddle through, teaching invites those with questions to seek assistance in finding answers. This does not mean teachers should not have a go, but rather that they seek support to help in reaching satisfactory outcomes.
This might include asking for clarification when a particular theory or teaching practice is not fully understood. It could be that teachers are struggling with classroom management, that discipline policies need explaining; a myriad of issues may press upon the teacher’s mind. They will remain there unless help is sought or given.
Teachers are often credited with having a sixth sense. Part of this is having the intuition to understand matters that others might be finding confusing and offering advice or support. Gumption needs to be a characteristic that allows teachers having difficulties, to ask for help if it is needed.
It is not a sign of weakness or inability to ask for support in understanding matters that are not fully comprehended. If there is a need ‘sensed’ in others, ask if they would like assistance. Two way caring and sharing should be informal, a part of the relationships that establish between members of staff.
In some cases, mentors are assigned to staff members new to a school. Building a two way professional relationship with a mentor or coach is wise. Beginning teachers can contribute to these relationships for they often have a better understanding of new methodologies than those who have been in schools for a number of years. Therefore meaningful two-way relationships can be established.
Keeping in touch with each other in a professional context is essential to the professional growth of teachers and school staff members. If problems are not shared and help not sought, worry, despondency and despair can set in and infect the soul. It is indeed sad if this happens … and it need not!
Caring and sharing are attributes to be cherished and practised.
E-MAILING – CAUTION NEEDED
In today’s world, emailing has become possibly the most common form of written communication. Most people have email accounts and use emails prolifically. Schools and teachers have email accounts, often displayed on the school’s website.
Communication by email is encouraged, including contact between parents and teachers. Notwithstanding the ease with which email communication can be used, it is important consider a cautionary approach to its use. This is because emails are written documents and can be held against writers for years and years to come.
* If parents seek information about homework assignments and work due,
excursion information or similar, response is fine.
* If parents want information on school policy or are confused about particular
whole school policies or school matters, refer them to a member of the
leadership team and forward email sent and you reply to your senior.
* Under no circumstances offer parent value judgements about a child’s
character by email. Written statements can come back in future times to haunt
* Be aware of the fact that emails can be used as documentation supporting
actions in courts, including custody battles between parents. To that end avoid
sending emails that ‘take sides’ or can be interpreted as supporting one parent
viewpoint or the other.
* Never promise by email that a child ‘will’ make certain progress by a particular
time or ‘will’ achieve particular outcomes. ‘Will’ is an absolute and confirms
that a particular attainment will be the result. Use ‘can’ or ‘could’ or similar
non-committing words. The onus is then on the child and not on the teacher to
take prime ownership of possible outcomes.
* It is wise to keep copies of emails sent too parents in a designated folder.
Trashing can be tempting but if a communications issue is raised to the
teacher at some future time, not having a record can be very unhelpful.
The above dot points could be extended and others added. Suffice it to say that the use of emails can be fraught with danger, a situation that all too many people find to their eternal sorrow. Stick to material issues and don’t enter into the realm of value judgements and character comment. Parents may send emails of this nature, asking to you comment on their perceptions. That invitation should be avoided because response means they may quote you and tie you to what is really their position.
Never ever write and send emails in the hear of the moment, while over-tired or while less inhibited than usual because of the use of alcohol. The reasons for this advice should be obvious.
If in doubt on the subject of email correspondence, check with a senior staff member. It is always better to be sure than sorry when dealing with email traffic.
PRESENTATIONS AND MIND SET
From time to time teachers will be asked to prepare presentations for colleagues, school staff, parents committee meetings, and possibly for other audience groups. Used to working with children and students in a classroom context, presentation requests take teachers outside their normal comfort zone. Suddenly they are confronted with a new arena.
Quite often people who were asked to prepare a presentation react with stage fright. Presenting in a formal or semiformal matter is something that causes them a great deal of nervous reaction. Some become so nervous they refuse point-blank to participate.
In an informal or social context people are comfortable to converse and exchange experiences. Yet when asked to present to the same people and others more formally, those selfsame and confident communicators clam up!
There is no doubt that the first time is the hardest when it comes to presentations. Relaxation of the mind and not anticipating “the worst” is critically important.
I would strongly recommend to teachers and indeed to all professionals that they consider joining Toastmasters, Penguins, or some other speech and speaking club. Membership of such groups enables people to develop confidence when it comes to speech presentations. Graduated programs help recognise the essential ingredients of speech. Graduated development means progress in understanding the rudiments of a presentation with presenters building on previously acquired skills. Membership of these groups also facilitates critical listening, with a view to members evaluating each other and through that process honing their self evaluation skills.
There are many people in high places who have great difficulty when it comes to presenting. Some have managed to sidestep the challenge by resort to PowerPoint presentations but the essence of delivery can be stilted, uninspiring and predestinated to leave the listening audience feeling bored, flat and unconvinced.
Speaking up with confidence does not come naturally to a lot of people. However it is a skill that can be acquired and once gained builds confidence in people called upon to make formal presentations or contribute to organisations and groups.
Details of such groups are often available by word of mouth, online, and through telephone book entries. Although membership has a fee attached this can be tax-deductible because it has to do with professional development.
I unequivocably recommend this course of action for your consideration.