Communication 24/7

I’m a strong proponent for effective and ongoing communication between teacher and parent. That communication, properly conducted, should enhance the relationship between the two parties, resulting in a strong bond that positively impacts student learning. Communication should flow easily from both directions in an effort to better inform, eliminate the potential for misunderstanding and build trust. It is difficult to argue why communication would not be on every parent and teachers’ top to do lists. Unfortunately, the pendulum of effective communication has swung violently to one extreme and created an almost 24/7 requirement.

Just for some history, I asked my parents if they had ever contacted one of my teachers at night, on the weekend or beyond the school day or year? They were perplexed by the question until I explained that teachers today are bombarded by phone calls, e-mails and text messages almost 24/7. And even more alarming, is the expectation of some parents for an immediate response, no matter when the message is sent or received!  While I can fully appreciate that the level of communication with my parents was insufficient, the level of communication today is overkill! Some excessive parental expectations coupled with the continued increase of access to technology is causing many teachers being overwhelmed with the need to stay plugged in and connected to maintain this 24/7 insanity.

This is not to be critical of parents who desire efficient and ongoing communication with their child’s teacher, although some may recognize their own overzealous approaches. It is meant to raise awareness of the communication insanity of anytime, anywhere, any place. Awareness of an issue is often the first step in making a change. It is simply to highlight the growing concern that our teachers face and the negative impact it is having on many of our finest teachers.

Teachers are also parents and have families that require and deserve their attention and time when they leave the school, whether it be at 3:30 PM, 6:00 PM or later. While I place high expectations on the teacher to be constantly improving his or her practice, that expectation cannot supersede the priority of family on a continuing basis. Finding the right balance requires attention to both with not one consistently overshadowing the other.

Which leads me back to communication 24/7. Students should expect their teachers to be at their best when they walk into the class. Parents should expect the same. But “at their best” will not occur without some semblance of balance. This balance cannot be found without the ability to lay down the phone, not answer the text and simply unplug for a time. While communication must be ongoing for all the right reasons it cannot be all the time.

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