The Power of Positive Communication

Last week, my ninth graders started working on a project associated with their summer reading novel A Lesson Before Dying. One group in particular was really doing a good job, going beyond the links I had given them to find interesting ways in which racism subtly impacts our society. In fact, they learned some things I didn’t know, and I was really excited when they shared it with me. Because I was impressed with their work, I decided to send e-mails to their parents letting them know.

Unfortunately, the positive note home hasn’t been a regular part of my repertoire in some time, and I had forgotten its power. Think about it. Most of the time, the first communication parents receive from teachers is about a problem in class. How great would it be to be approached for the first time by a teacher with a pat on the back for your child? I don’t know about you, but if I ever got such a note from my children’s teachers, I would be on their side immediately. I would be so grateful they took the time to tell me good news that I would support them for the rest of the year. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but maybe it would work like that for other parents, too.

I decided that I need to bring positive notes into my schedule. It takes only a few minutes to send one, but its impact can return many times over. I want to write about two e-mails a week, and I hope that at some point in the year, I can send a positive note about each student.

Teachers don’t have to dig for reasons to send notes home. Every student does something deserving of praise at some point in the year. My only ulterior motive for doing this is that as a parent who frequently hears nothing but bad about my middle daughter, who is in the process for evaluation for ADHD, it would make a world of difference if I felt like her teacher did see she had some good qualities. It’s frustrating to have a bright, funny, loving child who struggles in school and conflicts with teachers. I guess now that I’ve been in those shoes, I know how I’d feel if I ever received a positive note, and I suppose I determined that I would follow the Golden Rule on this one. It isn’t that I expect to hear from my children’s teachers — I probably won’t. But it does make me feel pretty good that I’m trying to do something about my students’ notions that if their parents hear from a teacher, it’s always bad news.

Why don’t you think about making positive communication part of your repertoire, too?

[tags]communication, teaching, education[/tags]

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Positive Communication

  1. It is such a wonderful idea and a shame we don't take the time to do it more. I remember doing it a few years ago and the parents were so thankful! I'm in the same boat with my middle daughter; she's only 4 but the negative comments from daycare have already piled up. I'm a bit nervous how her teachers will respond to her "spririted" personality once she starts K next year. Who knows, maybe my good deed of sending home good notes will make it back to me someday:)

  2. My first year of teaching, my boss had everyone call EVERY parent within the first two weeks of school to introduce ourselves and to give our first positive impressions of our students to their parents. Since then I have always tried to make my first contact a positive one. Most parents appreciate the positive comments more than we'll eer know.

  3. L.A., I'm not sure I agree with making it a requirement. For me, it loses its impact that way. I think we should make positive contacts, but if we're required to do so, I see it becoming a chore and a fishing expedition, and I don't think it should be either; however, I do agree that it's a good practice and that parents will appreciate it.

  4. Dana, "positive noticing" works both ways. Whenever my children would say something appreciative about their teachers or the content of the classes, I'd shoot off a note (a postcard in the "olden days"). Teachers sure appreciated it!

    "Positive noticing" is also a very helpful technique for helping kids with behavior issues to modify their behavior. Set your perception to what the kid does right, and comment on it (but don't compliment). As in, "Jimmy I noticed that you raised your hand in class today, not blurting out the answer." (said in a warm tone). After you get in the habit of noticing and commenting on positive behaviors, you can add something like, "What did you say to yourself to control the blurting?" or "What did you say to yourself to keep your hand up, instead of just starting to talk?"

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