Talking to our communities
ecently, I was doing some work with a few colleagues who are pursuing their Masters degrees, and they were asked to develop a metaphor for curriculum. They came up with some very interesting ideas – curriculum is a pizza, curriculum is a fruit salad, curriculum is an Olympic Games, and so on. We had some fun (well, I know I did) exploring these ideas so I decided to apply it to some other aspects of my work as an educational leader. One area that came to mind was communication within the school community, whether by principals or teachers. I thought that the following five metaphors might provide us with a range that that would help us to assess the true nature of our communication with our community. The nature of metaphor is that is an open-ended expression, and you might read into each of mine a different message to the one that I am proposing; but that is not important. I ask only that you see if there is some applicability of these metaphors to the way you communicate, and whether you can learn a lesson – positive or negative – from the process.
The success of the communicator often depends on the person’s enthusiasm and relevance
peanut butter sandwich. I hope we have also left the lecture and sat down with a tutor who presented the same material but in a way that engrossed us. If you have had this experience, you will recognise that it is not what we say that matters, but how we say it. A tenured lecturer might think his insights into the topic are enthralling, but a part-time tutor, dependant on his stipend to pay his rent, knows that his success depends on engaging with his audience, and drawing from them the knowledge that will get them through the course. The success of the communicator often depends on the person’s enthusiasm and relevance. I’ve heard school principals bore their audiences on speech night, and I’ve heard others enthral the captive group. Don’t think that because we have a position of authority, we are assured of a positive reception. Our hearers might be polite, but they will not be convinced unless we really have something to say and say it well. Let us recall our favourite tutors and see what sense of excitement they garnered in their
groups; let us aim for the same feeling in our community through our written and spoken communications.
Communication as a crime thriller
It’s not unusual to hear people argue strongly for their preferred crime shows: one might like the Danish The Eagle, another might opt for Morse’s controlled mayhem in Oxford, while a third might be thrilled by an Australian police sergeant, Tom Croydon in a rerun of Blue Heelers. Whatever our tastes, we probably justify them by referring to the great story lines, the witty dialogue, or the level of action in each episode. In each case, we are praising (or condemning) the communication of the message by the producer and the actors. It is often said that teachers (and this should include administrators) are actors, so it should surprise no-one if our words and actions are carefully vetted by our audience, the school community, with many a critical comment passed on what people see. I am pleased that they do not expect Gold Logie performance every week, but I think we make a serious error if we think we can pour out the same stuff, week after week. I think it would be safe to say, in developing the metaphor of a crime thriller, that our audience wants to have some constancy and some variety each week. Without a doubt, consistency is fundamental –
Communication as a university tutorial
We’ve all sat through boring university lectures and wondered why we are enrolled in a course that is less appetising than a pineapple and
Education Today – Term 4 2012