One of the most important elements of being a successful teacher and learner is being able to communicate clearly. I’ve found that when teachers talk to each other or other education professionals, they begin talking in almost another language. My dad has coined this language as “Education-ese.” This language is filled with a smattering of acronyms (NCLB, IDEA, AYP, LRE, IEP, just to name a few), reading programs, laws, and other non-typical language. This language helps teachers communicate clearly and more efficiently with each other. However, sometimes “Education-ese” makes communication even more difficult. The following two experiences, though not directly related to “Education-ese”, have taught me about the importance of clear communication.
One experience happened in high school. Of the approximately 700 students in my graduating class in high school, there were five Mormons. Because of this, I had the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful people from many faiths and ask and answer lots of questions. One day, close to graduation, a classmate was asking me some questions about going to BYU. She knew BYU was a private religious university, so she asked, “Do you have to go to services?” I thought she had misspoken and meant service, like going to do community service. So I replied, “Well, since I have a scholarship I do.” She looked really confused by my answer. It wasn’t until years later that I realized she was asking if I had to go to church every Sunday. We both knew about going to church, but we were basically speaking different languages because we used the same vocabulary in different ways.
Another experience I had happened last year during my study abroad to London. During the study abroad, we went to Paris for a few days. I’d taken French for five years and I was excited to finally try out my language skills. As I travelled around the city with my two friends, I would do most of the ordering, asking for directions, and finding out where the bathroom was. However, when we ate at restaurants, something else happened. The waiters would hear us speaking in English, and although I would start talking in French, they would speak to us in English. At first, I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t getting to use the language I had studied for so many years. But it did make the process a lot smoother, and my friends actually got to speak for themselves.
In one of my education classes, we talked about the importance of not losing the parents of our students in translation. We both have the goal of success for their child. However, when talking to parents, it’s easy to have a similar situation as my first experience. We’re both talking about the same thing (in this case, the success of a child) and both have a lot of knowledge about it. However, we sometimes have a hard time communicating effectively because we’re not using vocabulary that both of us understand or that we simply understand differently.
Instead, it’s important to be more like the French waiters. When we discuss the child’s success in school with parents, we need to speak in their language. If we are using a term from “Education-ese” we need to make sure we explain what it means. This helps the process of helping a child succeed go a lot smoother; it also allows parents to be fully participating members of the conversation.