Be Present, Be Polite, Be Precise

By IPLI Mentor, Mike Pinto, Principal at James Cole Elementary School

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Communication between school and home is always an area that we as educators can improve upon.  I have found the three “Be Statements”: Be Present, Be Polite, Be Precise to be wonderful guideposts both to my daily operations but also to my communication with parents.  Each of these “Be Statements” holds a certain aspect of truth to them that when used intentionally can not only bolster one’s communication approach, but also bolster one’s professional growth.

Be Present

One never fully appreciates another person being fully present until you are in a spot of great need and either do not feel heard or just need answers.  If you have ever had a loved one who has suffered a medical condition, t

The bedside manner of the doctor is something that either offers you faith and hope, or sends you away even more agitated and fearful.  If you have ever had a challenge with customer service – let’s say you cannot connect to the internet or your cable television signal is on the blink, when you finally get through to someone who listens and helps, or when you finally have a face-to-face with a technician who listens, your nerves are calmed.  The same holds true for our parents when they come to us at conference time or for assistance. We as educators are the experts and the parent deserves not only our undivided and present attention, but also our solutions and next steps.  As professionals, that is the minimum requirement.  So the next time you are sitting with a parent in distress, realize that your approach and your presence in the moment can make all the difference.  Put aside the distractions of phone ringing and emails and sit face-to-face and listen.  It will go a long way.

Be Polite

Respect is a two-way street but even in our most frustrated state, we have to always “Be Polite.”  As educators, we are held to a gold standard in terms of our actions and our words.  Dismissing a parent because of a comment he or she has made or allowing one’s emotions to overtake the situation does nothing to move the situation forward.  While we may not always agree with approaches and choices, we also are not in a position where we should or can be passing judgment.  Courtesy begets courtesy.  Always take the high road.

Be Precise

If you went to see your doctor and his charts were incomplete and he didn’t have the latest lab work you just completed on hand, you would be frustrated and may even seek a second opinion.  When we sit down with parents, not only is it important to be precise with our data, it is also important to be precise with our knowledge of the child.  Preparation sends a signal to parents that not only is their time and their child of high worth, but you are prepared to assist in multiple ways.  Being precise is an important piece of professionalism that cannot be overlooked.

As you meet with parents this year, think about the three “Be Statements” and Be Present, Be Polite, and Be Precise. While you are at it, apply these same principles to your interactions with other colleagues and staff members.  Because when we are “all in,” courteous, and prepared – amazing things happen.