#senco5aday, People

Time well spent

by David Gumbrell (Guest Blogger)

Those of you familiar with the developments of SENCO wellbeing #senco5aday will recall how #TeamADL have distilled the 5 components of the Foresight (2008) study into three elements: People, Place & Purpose.  In exploring ‘people’ this term, we invited David Gumbrell to share his thoughts on communication. Enjoy!

Whether it be semaphore, pigeon post or coded messages sent between Enigma machines, we humans need to connect, we need to share, we need to communicate with each other. Resilience is not about rugged individualism; we are hardwired to connect to others. I guess that is why solitary confinement is often perceived as a punishment? The question therefore remains – how do we convey what we want to others in the most effective and, in the time-pressed world in which we live, in the most efficient way possible?

Resilience is not about rugged individualism; we are hardwired to connect to others

Do you remember back at school when you made the tin-can telephone – connecting them with string? The connecting cord needed to be tight, I recall, but you most likely just heard the person saying ‘hello’ regardless of the primitive connecting device. However, the principle of the tight cord is crucial – it is the most likely way that the sound can travel. So, maybe there is something to be learnt from that?

Modern communication is much more complex. More than ever we are communicating with each other in limited word counts in the Twittersphere, supported with a GIFF, or emoji to convey further meaning. The email is batted back to the sender with a cursory glance of the content of the message sent – keen just to get it out of our Inbox – after all, you have 20 others to bat back too. This brevity and speed is also potentially our downfall.

Most of us struggle with limited word counts to distil the crucial elements of what we want to tell others; emojis are so limiting in their ability to display the gamut of emotions that our face conveys to other people when we are genuinely connecting. With time pressing we don’t fully focus on either the input (listening to the other person) or output (what we say to the other person in response). These two factors alone ensure that we frequently get our wires crossed – and the time spent repairing that damage, worrying about the mis-understood message, or responding emotively to that email is time wasted.

More than ever we are communicating with each other in limited word counts

Maybe the key to communication is to take longer to connect, genuinely connect. To stop ourselves from being distracted and concentrate fully on the person we are connecting to.  We need to actively listen, not just listen. We need to be present in the moment, rather than presentism of being in the space.

Whatever your role in education, consider how you communicate with other staff, the pupils and the parents of those pupils. How much of the connections are by written word, how much is conveyed with genuinely connection, supported with empathy and engagement face-to-face. I believe that we would be better off spending the time investing in meeting with people than sweeping up the mess that poor electronic communication can create.

We are social creatures, driven by emotions, feelings and moods. We need to be with others to see if they care. Maybe in our hyper connected world, we are the least connected we ever have been? Try to focus this week on connecting live with others, rather than remotely connecting their computer with yours.

After all, time spent making sure that the string in your tin can telephone is taut, is time well spent. Time given over to putting your ear to the can and genuinely listening, is time well spent. Investing time with others, connecting through our communication, is time well spent . . .

 . . . isn’t it? 

We would love to hear from you about strategies that have worked not worked to improve your communication with others.

David Gumbrell is a ex-headteacher of a Junior school (as well as being in the classroom for over 20-years). In the later stages of this part of his working life, David realised that there was an issue in education that was calling him to address. With recruitment becoming such an issue, retention became ever more important. In wanting to keep good teachers in the profession, resilience becomes key. With this in mind, The Resilience Project began – a project, in conjunction with the local teacher training university, to write some materials to support NQTs in their first year of teaching. They looked at aspects of resilience on each of the four visits that they received. The success of this project was presented at a conference in Birmingham and has gone from strength to strength since then. David now presents and writes on this subject full time to NQTs mostly, but also to all other members of staff in schools. What is appropriate for an NQT’s resilience is also applicable to a SEND Leader’s resilience and a Headteacher’s resilience. Teaching is a tricky profession to be in at the moment, hence the publication of ‘LIFT! Going up if teaching gets you down’, David’s first book in this area. Feel free to connect to David on Twitter @auribins  or via email david@theresilience-project.co.uk … though he’d much prefer a face-to-face coffee-chat ☕🍩

If you would like a FREE 30 day management software trial to enhance the shared information and communication about the special educational needs and disability across your setting, do look up #SENDsdo