We've seen earlier that affinity between staff, and between staff and parents in a private school is dependent upon maintaining a professional attitude.
Sloppy, inappropriate communications that might have been occurring, though they may look as though staff were ‘being more in communication’ were probably actually reducing affinity and damaging relationships.
If you need more guidance and reassurance on this, here are some further tips.
In reading these, some of you may think ‘Well, I do most of these already’ -good! Keep it up! Some may think ’That’s impossible!’ or think of exceptions to each, but I would encourage you to do your best in following these guidelines as they have been found to be and are extremely workable and helpful to the schools as a whole.
In talking to parents (or students or other staff) try to apply the following:
•Avoid telling them something which might shock them (even though they might not look shocked at the time) or which invalidates a child or something that a child has done. Have a communication line with them that is firm and caring enough so that these occasions need never arise.
•At all times be clear with what you are doing with a child to add value to his or her educational experience, rather than blaming or finding reasons why this cannot be done or is difficult.
•Keep all your appointments and don’t try to see a parent (or child or other staff member, for that matter) while you are doing something else or in the middle of a corridor or pathway. Grant parents the status of paying customers and strive to make each one feel like an important person (because they are!) This includes never walking away from someone in the middle of a discussion and never getting angry with them.
•Keep your own basics in as much as possible so that you are well-rested and fed when at work.
•If a parent (or child or other staff member) voices a concern or issue, try not to just sympathise but instead listen carefully and work out a positive solution.
•Try to take every discussion or conversation through to a full product where everyone is happy. Maintain communication until this is achieved. If you can’t get to a full solution, then immediately inform your senior.
•Don’t enter in your own opinion or comments which might be seen to be upsetting or distracting from the issues involved.
•Don’t get into justifying or trying to explain mistakes that may have been made in the past -keep things focused on the present and on working out solutions. If you actually have a disagreement with the school about something, the correct thing to do is to take this up with your senior. Never put such matters onto parents.
•If you are told something in confidence, carefully explain to the person that, depending on the nature of what you are told, you may have to report the matter to someone in authority at the school. Staff contracts normally contain a clause on keeping things confidential within the group and this needs to be adhered to.
•If asked on your post by a senior to keep something confidential, please do so. ‘Off the record’ or ‘I’m wearing a different hat here’ type of conversations don’t usually absolve you of the confidentiality clause or from taking a professional approach, and in the past have proven to be extremely unhelpful in managing situations to a full resolution. Loose tongues can also be passing on opinion, comments and data that is confidential to the school. Your confidentiality clause in your contract applies here. School business is just that: school business and should not to be communicated to anyone not contracted to that school.
Then within the structure of the school certain data only needs to be known on a need-to-know basis within the different levels and divisions of the organisation so that others can all get on with their jobs with a minimum of distraction. This applies to talking to other staff too - moaning to other staff about a student or parent (or another staff member) is unprofessional. When this occurs in a space where others are present, it can also have a detrimental effect on how that person is perceived by others who aren’t even connected to the issue at hand.
•Never ever discuss another child or another parent’s business with a parent (or another child). If pressed by an inquisitive parent (or child), the professional answer would be ‘I’m sorry but that’s a matter for that parent (or child)'. Even when discussing parents or children with other staff, at all times be professional and constructive and not at all negative.
•Never forward gossip or rumour.
Just to keep all this in perspective, the above guidelines are common in many schools and are part of expected behaviour. That’s partly because schools can be more open to legal threats and action if a staff member says a word out of place, appears unprofessional, or reveals something that they shouldn’t.
When you look over all this, you may feel that it is burdensome to be required to try to keep to these points in as a member of this group. In practice, these points will make your life less burdensome and more pleasant. I’m sure that those of you who already do these things would agree. Not keeping these points in is not only in some cases a contract violation but can open a school up to very unhappy parents which then needs intervention by senior personnel to sort it all out.
Being an amateur forwards negativity and keeps one pinned down. Being a professional creates a positive and ordered environment around one which minimises trouble or hassle. One comes to be more appreciated and respected and one moves up the ladder to greater heights.