Introductory Challenge


Veronica Mallory has been a paraprofessional for 30 years, and she’s almost ready to retire. Many of her colleagues—teachers and parapros—have already retired. So her school, Jefferson Middle, has recently employed a number of new educators. Helping these educators become effective instructors is the challenge now facing long-time principal, Marsha Albright.

As Marsha knows, effective communication between educators and students is crucial to the success of instruction overall. So she’s asked a small team of seasoned educators—the Communications Professional Development Team (CPDT)—to create a series of workshops on communication for new Jefferson Middle School educators. Marsha invited Veronica to be one of the four members of this team. “You’re great with the kids,” said Marsha. “The new educators will benefit from hearing how you have worked to communicate effectively with students and to break down communication barriers.”

In preparing for the first meeting of the CPDT, Veronica started to think about the communication challenges she has faced over the years. What were the characteristics of good communication with students? What were the circumstances that led to communication breakdowns? What led to communication breakthroughs? How could she tell when it was time to try a new communication strategy?


By the end of this unit, you will probably be able to answer questions like those that Veronica posed to herself. Framing those questions in a more general way, they are:

  • What are the characteristics of good communication with students?
  • What circumstances lead to communication breakdowns with students?
  • What circumstances lead to improvements in communication with students?
  • What signs should educators look for as evidence that a communication strategy is (or is not) working?

At this point, you may already have some answers to these questions. What are they? Jot down some notes or discuss your answers with one or more educators. If you are completing this Introductory Challenge with others in a workshop or class, your instructor or facilitator might ask you to share your answers to these questions with one or more other participants.