Changing Schools One Conversation at a Time

Everybody’s on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to socialite
We all salute the satellite
Won’t you text me with your master plan
You’re loud and clear but I don’t understand
I’m a digital explorer in analog roam
And everybody’s on the phone

Jimmy Buffett

I couldn’t resist starting this post with a quote from one of my favorite musicians, authors, and philosophers, Jimmy Buffett. His song, Everybody’s on the Phone, is a nice little synopsis of much of our daily communication habits, pushing me to think this week about the power and effectiveness of good old-fashioned, one-on-one, face-to-face conversations.

I understand the realities that we are in a world that has certain demands for technology-based, mass and global communication. Collaboration is the norm rather than the exception today, but we are often geographically and temporally isolated from the people we need to communicate with necessitating the use of various technologies to help us communicate. There is also the sheer convenience of picking up my iPhone and being able to communicate with virtually anyone I want. There is no question that existing technologies allow us to communicate with speed and efficiency in a multitude of ways, BUT we have to be conscious of assuming its the most effective communication strategy.

Electronic communication is convenient and efficient, but you can’t begin to quantify the power and effectiveness of face-to-face interactions. Conversations are deeper, richer, and personal. Conversations have context, and intent and emotions are much easier to read, understand, and appreciate when talking face-to-face. Also, for the most part, face-to-face conversations are reasonably finite; a conversation starts, we have the conversation, and it ends. I might be the only one, but email and messaging conversations never really seem to end, they’re just information exchanges that seem to dangle for ever out in cyber land.

Most importantly for me, I find that during a face-to-face conversation I am a much better listener. During a conversation, my attention is with that individual, not my inbox, not other messages or tweets that might be coming in. I can check for understanding and ask for clarification on the spot. The bottom line is that I feel a sense of accomplishment after a face-to-face conversation that I don’t always feel through other modes of communication.

I’m not out to abolish using technologies to communicate because quite frankly I need it (and I’m somewhat addicted to it). I am however trying to focus on time and place and ask myself “Can I walk down the hall and have a conversation?” or “Can I pick up the phone and at least have a live conversation?” instead of opening my email or messenger app.

I challenge everyone to reflect this week on the face-to-face conversations you have had, and then go look at the conversations in your inbox. Yes, there is a necessity to those email conversations, but I think the quality and value of those face-to-face conversations were much greater. In the end, we can ensure that those digital messages are sent, but can we ensure that they have been received?

Readables this week…

How Feedback Leads to Engagement – Jane E. Pollock describes some great strategies to incorporate feedback into classroom routines.

Are we cramming kids into our own limited moulds? – A great and provocative little blog post.

To be Successful Sometimes we Have to Let Go – Another great lille blog post reminding us of the value of working with students rather than doing things to students.

Five Lessons for School Leaders – A quick read with some powerful reminders for leaders.

How Managers Get in the Way – This one really hits home as we start another school year and start preparing education plans, professional development, and committee work…

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