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Communication

Communication Philosophy Statement
        Strong communication skills are at the heart of effective administrative practice.  According to Weishaar, Borsa, and Weishaar (2007), "all administrators should be knowledgeable about and practice effective communication skills.  The goal of good communication is for both parties to understand each other and to be understood" (p. 91).  Effective communicators demonstrate competency in facilitating meetings, encouraging teamwork, disseminating information to stakeholder groups orally and in writing, and handling resistance.  An educational leader that possesses strong communication skills in these areas can serve as an agent of change for their organization.
        To obtain positive outcomes for students, educational leaders need to collaborate with students, parents, teachers and other school staff.   Peterson (1995) believes that successful schools use teamwork to accomplish a variety of important tasks.  Effective educational leaders are able to facilitate teamwork by establishing "clear, shared goals; a sense of commitment; the ability to work together; mutual accountability; [and] access to needed resources and skills" (Peterson, 1995, n.p.).  Teams play an important role in accomplishing tasks and decision-making within the schools.  Educational leaders need to encourage and facilitate teamwork for a wide-variety of activities from curricular reform to implementation of new programs.  
        Educational leaders must also possess strong communication skills related to presenting and disseminating information to teachers, staff, parents, and other community members.  In order to effectively communicate with the different stakeholder groups, educational leaders need to consider the unique characteristics of their audience.  For example, a school board presentation on changing the master schedule will need to emphasize different talking points (i.e., financial savings to the district) than a parent presentation on the same topic (i.e., increased number of elective classes available to students).  Effective communicators know their audience and adapt their message accordingly.  This is true not only for an oral presentation of information, but also for written communication.  Educational leaders need to be able to effectively disseminate written information to stakeholders (i.e., parent letters, newsletters, staff emails, website).  By tailoring messages to the audience and using multiple methods of information distribution, educational leaders are able to communicate important messages and stay connected with key stakeholders in their organization.  
        Finally, educational leaders need to know how to actively listen to others, acknowledge their concerns, communicate understanding, and handle resistance.  Educational leaders are frequently faced with situations that require the use of these thoughtful communication tactics.  For example, at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, a parent might become upset because they believe a teacher is not following their son or daughter's IEP.  Fisher, Ury, and Patton (1991) suggest using the following communication strategies to prevent or avoid further problems in communication:  (1) listen actively and acknowledge what is being said, (2) speak to be understood, (3) speak about yourself, not about them, and (4) speak for a purpose.  Educational leaders who employ these communication strategies are able to effectively handle difficult situations with students, parents, and staff.
        In conclusion, strong communication skills are an essential component of effective administration.  Educational leaders need to be able to facilitate teamwork within their organization and disseminate information to different stakeholder groups using multiple modes of communication.  In addition, due to the nature of administrative positions, educational leaders need to be skilled in communication strategies related to acknowledging concerns and handling resistance.

References
Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (1991). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in (2nd ed.). United States of America: Penguin Books.

Peterson, K. (1995).  Building a committed team. Retrieved February 10, 2010, from North Central Regional Education Laboratory Web site:
http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/leadrshp/le200.htm

Weishaar, M.K., Borsa, J.C., & Weishaar, P.M. (2007). Inclusive educational administration: A case-study approach (2nd ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

F.  Communication: Core Competency

  1. formulate and carry out plans for internal and external communications;
  2. demonstrate facilitation skills;
  3. recognize and apply an understanding of individual and group behavior in normal and stressful situations;
  4. facilitate teamwork; 
  5. demonstrate an understanding of conflict resolution and problem solving strategies;
  6. make presentations that are clear and easy to understand;
  7. respond, review, and summarize information for groups;
  8. communicate appropriately (speaking, listening, and writing) for different audiences- students, teachers, parents, community, and other stakeholders;
  9. understand and utilize appropriate communication technology

Artifacts

The following artifacts demonstrate my competency in the area of communication:

This artifact demonstrates my ability to communicate appropriately for different audiences - students, teachers, parents, community, and other stakeholders (F8).  Along with identifying a need to train teachers on Section 504 (see previous artifact reflection under Policy and Law), I also identified a need to provide parents with information on this topic.  I created this brochure to be as parent-friendly as possible, incorporating answers to common questions as well as outlining the eligibility process.  Relevant contact information was also provided to parents in the brochure.

This artifact showcases my ability to demonstrate facilitation skills (F2).  The purpose of this parent problem solving meeting was to respond to a parent's written request for a speical education evaluation.  As the facilitator of this parent problem solving meeting, I knew that preparation was going to be key in leading a focused and productive meeting.  As a result, I put together a detailed agenda.  In the end, the team was able to reach a concensus that the student's academic data did not warrant a special educaiton or 504 evaluation and that there were specific self-advocacy skills the student could work on with her counselor to ensure continued success in high school as well as in her post-secondary education.

 
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