4 Top Communication Skills for Educators


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Using effective communication skills in our learning environments will promote student voice, equity, balance, literacy skills, and academic success!

I am currently Instructing a College Course in Psychology that promotes key counselling skills via Desire2Learn LMS.  I am able to work with a cohort of amazing candidates who are not in the education profession. I have to say that it is refreshing and their key insights are able to provide me with new perspectives in my role as an educator. It truly amazes me how many people outside of the education system demonstrate humility, openness and willingness to learn new skills. What a wonderful thing to be humble in the face of working with other people to help them get through times of crisis and stress. A true representation of a ‘Growth Mindset‘. Isn’t this what many students, parents, and families bring to us each and every day? We do not know each situation, nor can we make assumptions.

Yet, I also cannot help to reflect on some of the differences between working with people from the teaching profession, and working with people from other professions.

My experiences as a parent and a teacher have demonstrated that in certain instances, due to many factors, educators can come across, and even come to believe that we always have to have all of the answers, and that we understand everything. This is a position of power that can be abused when we are working with parents. These attitudes can also be experienced as ongoing colonization and forcing students of different cultural backgrounds to assimilate to our own particular beliefs about what education should ‘look’ like.

4 key skills from the Counselling profession that I believe need to be reinforced in education include:

1. Attending behaviours, active listening, eye contact & body language, compassion.

  • This sounds like a cliché, but the families in our communities come from a range of backgrounds, experiences and knowledge bases. To assume that as an educator, we have all of the answers can be condescending and paternalizing. We must be open to working with parents and families as equals in the process. This naturally does not mean that we allow ourselves to be disrespected or victimized. However, we as educators need to be the ones who recognize that all families and situations are different, and that parents can, and should be able to share important knowledge about their children to help in their education. This includes cultural information, including integrating FNMI knowledge and practices into education, special educational needs, and sharing of supports and knowledge in the classroom. Our doors and minds need to be open.

2. Reframing statements.

  • Negative feelings and thoughts about education don’t need to be met with resistance. Using attending skills, and questioning skills we can help parents, (and be open ourselves) to reframing situations in more positive ways for the sake of the students, and our children!

3. Setting boundaries to balance personal lives and work.

  • Part of setting good boundaries, also includes being open and honest with ourselves about our biases, weaknesses, insecurities, and even being honest about what we know and don’t know. We simply do not know all that needs to be known. We have a knowledge base that we bring to education. It is the student voice, parents, families and communities that are necessary to build upon our knowledge bases to help us build meaningful programs. If we are stuck in our ways and stuck in our ideas that we alone have the answers and the ideas that work, this will only serve to alienate and reinforce a position of power over other parents.

4. Always educating ourselves.

  • Not because we are released for PD, but because we have a genuine interest in understanding our communities and the cultures and voices in our classrooms and learning environments. We have a genuine interest in learning how to improve our programs. We are open to what others are doing, and want the best for all learners.

In closing, we do not need to be the expert on all types of situations and scenarios. Nor do we have to be experts on curriculum. We engage in the kinds of behaviours and attending skills that demonstrate respect and a genuine willingness to work with children, parents, families alike.

We are confident in our flexible pedagogies that allow for changes in the 21st century, and that include other voices, knowledge, culture, and expertise. 


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

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The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.

In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.

We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.

After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:

13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.

As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.

As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.

Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.

Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.

According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.

I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.

This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.

Deborah & Ian McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.