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15 Ways Principals Can Improve Communication with Students


principalsLast week we shared five tips to help principals better communicate with students, parents and teachers. We’d like to continue the conversation, but focus specifically on improving communication with students. As you well know, intergenerational communication can be tricky business. Nonetheless, we believe there are simple steps principals—and any educator for that matter—can take to bridge generation gaps.

15 Ways Principals Can Improve Communication with Students

  • Be mindful when you speak and write. Words, both good and bad, have a long—sometimes indefinite—shelf life

  • Avoid using absolutes like “never” and “always.” Instead, describe what you see, hear and feel

  • Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences with students. Self-disclosure is a useful tool for opening up lines of communication

  • Never use words to belittle any child’s dreams

  • Students often lack the experience to put their problems into perspective. Help them contextualize their struggles without minimizing them

  • Keep in mind that students usually communicate better one-on-one or when they are in smaller groups

  • Use straight talk instead of jargon, shock talk or phony “studentese”

  • Our culture uses a lot of double-talk: We say one thing out of politeness (“No, let me pay for it” or “You really shouldn’t have gotten me that”) but actually mean the opposite. Younger students don’t understand these nuances. Avoid them and just say what you mean

  • Students are often unable to articulate how they feel. Help them define their feelings, if necessary

  • Eye contact, nodding your head and smiling go a long way

  • Be clear about expectations. Don’t expect students to “just get it”

  • Nothing unnerves students quite as much as superficial, authoritarian answers like “That’s just the policy.” Provide real answers to their questions

  • Make sure your mouth, eyes and body are all saying the same thing

  • Step out from behind your desk and remove physical barriers between you and the student when speaking to him or her

  • Forget about what a principal is “supposed” to look and act like. Be you.

Many of these tips have been adapted from Robert Ramsey’s book, How to Say the Right Thing Every Time: Communicating Well With Students, Staff, Parents, and the Public.


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