Effective communication of supervisor’s with their direct reports is essential to the productivity of any organization. In the case of an area school district, principles must communicate with the department heads, who in turn must communicate with their fellow teachers within the department. If the communication chain breaks down at any of these points, the department productivity will suffer, hurting the teachers’ ability to effectively teach his/her students.
Being a communications teacher yourself, you’ll understand the importance of communication within a department. This report evaluates the current communication method of an area school district and includes my recommendations to improve the communications between department heads and their direct reports.
In my report you’ll find general information on the pitfalls of the current communication practices at an area high school, in particularly the science department, as well as my recommendations for improving their overall communications process.
Background History of the School
At the end of the 2006/2007 school year, the science department of an areas high school lost half their teachers and performed interviews to replace the ones they lost as well as recruit for the new positions needed for the growing enrollment rates. The department ended up hiring four new teachers for the 2007/2008 school year.
The area high school had undergone a large amount of change in the last seven years and has continued to revamp their current curriculum to meet the recent changes in the education laws. The previous administration had been in office for several years and had a track record of being well organized and supportive of their staff. Seven years ago, the majority of the administration retired/left along with a bulk of the tenure faculty, causing a number of inexperienced individuals to take over key positions. Therefore, the faculty left to replace the head of the science department lacked the inexperience and may not have been the best person for the position.
The current supervisor of the science department is new to the position. Although the supervisor had taught for a number of years in the school district, she is inexperienced in a leadership role. The supervisor is not well liked by the student body because she does not believe in offering tutoring to help the students or second chances for improvement. The last couple of years, the science department had problems keeping their staff and hired new teachers. This report focuses on one of the new teachers hired for the 2007/2008 school year.
The previous school district where the new teacher taught was an eighth of the size of the new school district. The previous school district was a poor learning environment for teaching due to limited resources and funding. The new school district offered more opportunity because it had more resources and funding for training their teachers. This is what attracted the new teacher to the school.
During the teacher’s interview with the supervisor and principles, the teacher found out the school was impressed with her education and past work experience as a research scientist. The school felt that her work experience would benefit the science department and decided to hire her for the school year. Towards to middle of the school year, the teacher started having problems with the administration.
THE COMMUNICATION ISSUE
Three months after school began the teacher finished a lesson and gave her students a worksheet to work on. The supervisor was in the office next to the new teacher’s classroom working. The supervisor assumed the teacher had nothing for the students to do after the lesson and was very upset because the students were talking amongst themselves. Instead of waiting to discuss her issues with the teacher, the supervisor proceeded to yell at the new teacher in front of her students. When the teacher tried to explain what was really going on with the students, the supervisor would not listen. The supervisor proceeded to tell the teacher that this was her second warning and if she received another one that she would not be hired back next year.
Not knowing what caused her first warning, the teacher had a meeting with the school principle to discuss what happened and what she needed to change in her classroom. The principle decided to put the teacher on an improvement plan which included implementing the changes suggested, sending weekly lesson plans to the principle, and weekly evaluations.
For the next two months, the teacher emailed the principle her weekly lessons plans and made the changes suggested, but only received an evaluation twice during the 2 month period. The next week she was called into a meeting with the principle she was working with on the improvement plan as well as an additional principle. The principle proceeded to tell the teacher that she has improved on the areas that they initially discussed and told her that they noticed other areas that needed improving. Instead of giving her a chance to improve the additional areas, the principle had decided to not hire her back the next year. They requested that she turn in her letter of resignation the next work day to avoid this situation from appearing on her permanent record.
The situation created tension for the teacher towards the school and administration and could have been avoided by increasing their communication. The teacher feels that this situation developed due to the unwillingness of the administration to communicate with her what she was doing right and wrong and the breakdown of the professional development program the school has in place. There are several ways they could increase their communication and decrease misunderstandings similar to the situation that occurred between the administration and the teacher.
IMPROVING THE COMMUNICATION
Effective communication is the key to planning, leading, organizing, and controlling the resources of a department to master any challenges. With today’s technology there are several ways for a department to improve communication. This section will cover those methods of communication tools and how they can be implemented into the science department’s current communication procedures.
Science Department Meetings and Email Systems for Communicating
The current department head informed her teachers that she does not believe meetings are useful and will not be scheduling them for the group. However, department meetings can be a very useful tool to communicate goals, distribute necessary department and school information, and problem solve issues within the department. The job of the department head is to organize and lead these meetings for the other teachers within the department. If the department head does not have the time to organize and conduct weekly or even biweekly meetings, she could always delegate this job to the other teachers in the department.
Delegation is another tool that managers have at their finger tips. It allows a manager to make the best use of their time and skills, and it helps others in the team grow and develop to reach their full potential in the department. With delegating the organization and running of the department meetings, the other teachers will gain experience in conducting meetings, organizing appropriate information for others in the department, and gain presentation skills. Another useful technology tool for communication is email.
Probably the most used communication tool today, email is an efficient way to communicate to multiple people when used correctly. Email can be used to provide the agenda’s for the department meetings, inform the department of immediate information, and scheduling department meetings and personnel evaluations. Communication workshops offer additional way to improve communication within a department.
Management Improvement and Communication Workshops
People are one of the greatest investments and the biggest asset in any organization including a school district. Investing to educational workshops for employees is an excellent tool for building team work. Communication workshops can help employees change not only their perspectives on communicating but also the four key dynamics affecting communication – gender, personality, generation, and culture. A current program area high schools should already have in place is the professional development programs. However, this program can use some improvements.
Improve the Professional Development Program
A state requirement of all public school districts is to have a mentor-mentee new teacher program. The area high school where the teacher taught is required to have this program in place. However, the program was not implemented properly. The teacher did not find out that she had a mentor, whom was her supervisor, until March 2008, after the school district had asked her to resign from her position.
The professional development program is set up for new teachers to the district. The program objectives are as follows.
•New teachers are assigned a senior teacher within the department to act as a mentor •To provide assistance for mentee in the development of classroom skills •To provide planned support, guidance, and feed back for mentee in their entire year •To develop and implement a plan of professional growth for each mentee •The mentee will receive help and inservice opportunities from the districts professional development community
The professional development program also includes the responsibilities of the mentor and mentee, the state certification requirements for teachers, inservice training documentation, an inventory of competencies, a professional development plan, and goals and strategies.
If the program is implemented correctly, it’s designed to train new teachers to become effective communicators with their students as well as fellow colleagues. The area high school could improve their program by setting up a coordinator to manage the program, training mentor’s to implement the mentee program, inform the mentee’s of the program and who their mentor will be, and offer inservice and professional development opportunities.
The following list of items are recommended for improving the area high school’s ability to eliminate further situations that would decrease productivity of the teachers and their ability to teach the students.
•Instead of yelling at the teacher at that moment and in front of the students, the supervisor should have waited and informed the teacher that she would like to talk to her •Setup weekly or biweekly department meetings to communicate changes, department goals, department and school information, and to problem solve issues •Delegate department meetings to the other teachers to promote personal development •Utilize email to schedule department meetings and personnel evaluations •Find and schedule communication and managerial workshops to improve department productivity •Improve and implement the professional development programs mandated by state law for public school districts