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It happened again.

I was attending the opening session of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Family and Community Engagement Conference a few weeks ago.

During the panel discussion, Zakiya Ansari with the Alliance for Quality Education talked about her work engaging parents. She lifted up the need, “to use language that is very simple and easy to digest…for parents or community members. [It’s] extremely important because then they know.”

I was not surprised to hear this.

In fact, I hear it at least once every single time I attend an educational conference.

Without fail, someone in a session will bemoan the fact that educators use big words and acronyms, authoritative tones, and they send home too much information.

For me, Zakiya’s words just reinforced the importance of the work I’ve been doing these past few years.

You see, I am not an educator by training. I’m a broadcast journalist. When I got my job leading family and community engagement for my school district, I was lost. It was a giant learning curve.

At the same time, I started attending educational conferences like the one I attended a few weeks ago. I started hearing about the need for better school/home communication.

I can remember one time, someone stood up and just said, “Why do we talk to families the way we do? It’s a barrier.”

After hearing this sentiment over and over at conferences and based on my own experiences in education, I started thinking to myself, “I still don’t know everything about education, but I’m a journalist and I do know about communication. Maybe I can help with this.”

Truth be told, I felt compelled to help.

So, after one of the conference sessions, I went back to my hotel room and I put some thoughts down on paper. Six years later, I had a book. Two years after that, I left my job to help teachers, principals, and school staff develop the communication skills they need to partner more effectively with families.

School/home communication is now my passion. And, if you want to know why…just look at the power in Zakiya’s words.

“Then they know.”

If we can communicate better with families…then they’ll know.

They’ll know how to help their children. They’ll know how to find resources or support. They’ll know how to advocate for their schools.

They’ll know that they are respected partners in the educational process. They’ll know they have a voice and they’ll know they have a seat at the table.

There’s so much promise in that…not just to fundamentally change education but to change the lives of our students and families and our world.

If you’d like to get started improving your communication, reach out to me on my website and let’s talk. While you’re there, download my free Playbook for Clear Effective and Meaningful School Communication.

Patricia Weinzapfel

Author, Educator, Journalist & K12 Communications Expert

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