Slide 1: Welcome to the final unit in the module on communication and collaboration. This unit is called, “Putting It All Together.” It summarizes major ideas from the other nine units in the module. I’m Marcquis Parham, and I’m sharing this slideshow on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Cincinnati’s Systems Development and Improvement Center.
Slide 2: Communication is a big idea, and this module focuses on only one part of it: how parapros communicate on the job. Communication seems natural and in some ways it is. But in other ways, communication is actually difficult. It even requires us to learn and practice new skills. Fortunately, getting better at communicating is a process. We just start from where we are and add in new practices that we know will lead to improvement. This module provides information about those practices.
Slide 3: Five practices are particularly important. These involve:
- Being wary of your assumptions and ready to change your mind.
- Listening more than talking.
- Listening carefully in order to help the instructional team understand issues.
- Thinking before speaking.
- Preparing well by trying to make objective observations.
- And, finally, confronting communication difficulties with the team in mind!
Slide 4: These practices are the basics. Using them consistently will greatly improve your communication with the people you encounter in the workplace. Other practices will also help in your communications with specific groups of people: students, parents, mentor teachers, members of instructional teams, agency staff, and students and families whose first language is not English.
Slide 5: As the module says again and again, instructional teams are where the important decisions about teaching and learning should happen. Sometimes the instructional team will include you and a mentor teacher. Often it will include more than one teacher. It might also include an educational administrator (perhaps a principal) or someone who provides related services (maybe a physical therapist). Collaborating with these team members depends on everyone’s willingness to be open, attentive, and trustworthy as well as to communicate clearly.
Slide 6: Confidentiality is a cornerstone of trustworthiness, and it’s also a legal requirement. It’s important, therefore, to understand what the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act asks you and other educators to do.
Slide 7: But important as it is, protecting confidentiality is just a start. Beyond protecting privacy, communication is all about relationships. You can build relationships with others—whether students, parents, or colleagues—by establishing rapport, showing respect, exhibiting interest, and expressing care. These practices are often difficult to enact in schools where a lot is happening, and time is limited. Still, because the payoff is worth it, trying your best is critical.
Slide 8: What does trying your best really involve? It involves intentional work to manage dispositions (that is attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs) and to guide your own actions (that is, skills and practices).
Slide 9: In terms of dispositions, trying your best involves thinking more circumspectly about how you interact with others on the job. Circumspection just means looking around in a complete circle and taking into account what you see. Looking around in this way helps you understand what’s going on with the people around you, and this type of understanding allows you to act in a supportive and caring manner.
Slide 10: In terms of actions, trying your best involves knowing how to use different communication strategies and then figuring out how to use those strategies in a wide variety of situations. For instance, you might need to use different communication approaches with students versus adults. Your communication with students who are learning English as a second language will likely be different from your communication with native English speakers. And your communication with colleagues from outside agencies will differ from your communication with members of your own instructional team.
Slide 11: Your communication strategies will also differ depending on your communication purposes. Sometimes—for instance when you are sharing the results of a systematic observation with an instructional team—you’ll need to use formal communication strategies such as a written report or graph. Other times, informality will work better.
Slide 12: But whatever strategies you use, it’s critical to remember that your overall aim is to help students learn. In fact, that’s the main mission of schools, so it also should be the main mission of people who work there. So, if you judge each communication event in relation to the teaching-learning mission, you’ll go a long way to improving your work-related communication overall.
Slide 13: As a paraprofessional educator, you are a helper. You follow the lead of the professional colleagues who make the major decisions about teaching and learning. Nevertheless, you are in a position to understand some things that your colleagues may not understand.
Slide 14: That’s because you may work very closely with certain students—more, in fact, than other members of the team. You may know a lot about those students’ learning and about what instructional approaches help them learn. Your knowledge about these students will benefit the team as a whole. So, it’s very important that you find and use productive strategies for sharing your knowledge with colleagues! Communication grounded in positive dispositions and effective practices is your best bet.
Slide 15: Thank you for viewing this slideshow and also for engaging with other parts of OPEPP’s module on Communication and Collaboration.