Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dr. Branch on Communication

George Bernard Shaw wrote that “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

In today’s world, we tweet, we post on Facebook, we email, we text, and on occasion we still talk face to face. But I wonder, do we truly communicate? The best, most effective, and only true form of communication is two-way communication. This column communicates the happenings of our school system to you, our community of learners, but its value is increased significantly by the responses and feedback I receive from it weekly. The results of those emails and letters impact future topics and help us better understand the desires of our stakeholders.

As we conclude our third full week of the school year I wanted to check with each of you to see how our school system is doing in the area of communication. Are we meeting your family and your student’s needs for information? Could we employ a different method of communication that would more readily reach you? Are we utilizing old methods of communication that no longer work? These are just a few questions to consider as we seek to take a more targeted look at our communication tools and their effectiveness.

To move forward, however, we must first review our current practice. Oconee County Schools currently provides information through an automated phone system, school web pages, newsletters, individual and group email, blogs, and newspaper articles. At least one of our schools also utilizes Twitter. In addition, local schools hold parent nights, conferences and local school council meetings, and as superintendent I maintain student, teacher, and parent advisory boards. Are these methods effective? Is the information relevant, up to date, and easily located? Do you have ample opportunity to listen, read, and respond? The answers to these questions are important as we determine where to place our time and money as they relate to communicating school system priorities, information, and student successes.

Finally, as I close out this week’s column I wanted to share a conversation I had with a new family that has just relocated to our area and our school system. As I had an opportunity to visit with the father of this family face to face, he shared that his student was settling in rather nicely to the new educational environment. When I asked him what his student liked best, he said the “atmosphere of trust.” His student shared that the teachers at his school simply asked him to be prepared and be engaged and trusted that he would respond. Clearly, a positive message was communicated from teacher to student and learning was enhanced because of that communication. This is the entire point. How can we better communicate to our community of learners so that student achievement is enhanced?

I look forward to communicating with you. Please email me at jbranch@oconeeschools.org to share your thoughts.

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