teacher's writing ability is more important than ever. Our written notes
to parents are no longer limited to quarterly report card comments. We
communicate with parents via e-mail, classroom Web pages, and newsletters
-- to name just a few of the vehicles we use. Indeed, our written communications
speak volumes about our competence as teachers, contends educator Max
Fischer in this week's Voice of Experience essay. What do your written
communications with parents say about you? Included:
Five tips for improved written communications.
Max W. Fischer
Perhaps you have seen these alleged teacher report card comments from a humorous Internet Web site:
"Your child is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."
"When your daughter's IQ reaches 50, she should sell."
"The student has a 'full six-pack,' but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."
The aforementioned quotes supposedly came from the teacher comments section of student report cards. According to the Web site, the authors of those remarks and others listed were reprimanded by their respective school boards. If that information is indeed true, teacher comments of that ilk would be devastating to any student and probably would completely rupture any hope of a constructive home-school relationship. The extremism of those remarks serves as a backdrop to the vital, but fragile, art of written communication by teachers
At one point in time, especially at the elementary level, what the teacher penned in the comment section of the report card was center stage for displaying his or her writing ability. With the proliferation of e-mail and computerized report card comments, the emphasis on written communication has shifted. A teacher's writing abilities are more important now than ever before:
Writing has the potential to grease the wheels of a teacher's working relationship with students, parents, professional colleagues, and the community at large. If not lubed properly, however, friction is certain to develop.MAYBE NOT THE PULITZER
Although no one expects teachers to be Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, competent application of writing mechanics, including syntax and spelling, is requisite. Like it or not, written communication -- much like its oral counterpart -- has the power to project an image and set a tone in a teacher's relationships. That image can be professional or incompetent; conciliatory or inflammatory; cooperative or antagonistic. Sometimes, by the words teachers use in their written communications, or the manner in which they write their messages, teachers unwittingly shoot themselves in the foot.
Regardless of whether you teach first grade, middle school art, or high school physics, proficient writing skills can, at the very least, bolster your credibility. More importantly, they can promote your objectives within the class by developing integral relationships outside of class.LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED
With a competent style secured, it is important that your intended message be direct and to the point. Be respectful of your audience's time; most often, a linguistic snapshot is more appreciated that a wordy mural.
There are times, however, when brevity must be sacrificed in the interests of sufficient detail. A mother's e-mail inquiry expressing concern about her middle school daughter's safety at school certainly deserves a more thoughtful and measured response than a routine procedural question about a school project.
Over the years, I've learned a few things (some, the hard way) about a teacher's writing:
In that manner, those parents prone to not reading an entire newsletter would acquire the most vital information (especially if the highlighted notice is the first sheet of the packet).OPEN HOUSE --TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 7:00P.M.
PLEASE NOTE OUR HOMEWORK HOTLINE VOICEMAIL PHONE 444-4444.
Most teachers have limited need of business cards. However, in more ways than you might think, our writing ability acts as our calling card. What is yours saying?
A teacher for nearly three decades, Max Fischer currently teaches seventh graders the marvels of ancient history. A National Board certified teacher in the area of early adolescence social studies/history, Max has authored nine resource books for teachers in the fields of social studies, health, and math. You can read a previously published article about Fischer: Simulations Engage Students in Active Learning.
Article by Max W. Fischer
Copyright © 2005 Education World
Originally published 04/04/2003