Everyone ‘In The Know’ – Advice on Communication for the New Head of Department

Creating an effective communication network in your department will go a long way towards creating a harmonious relationship among your staff as well as improving the educational environment for your students. If your staff is fully informed on issues affecting them and the organisation of your subject department and the school, then they will be […]

Everyone ‘In The Know’ – Advice on Communication for the New Head of Department

Creating an effective communication network in your department will go a long way towards creating a harmonious relationship among your staff as well as improving the educational environment for your students.

If your staff is fully informed on issues affecting them and the organisation of your subject department and the school, then they will be more prepared to offer assistance and suggestions to improve the running of the department and to help solve any ‘problems’ that might arise. It helps create an “all in this together” atmosphere among you and your staff.

So, It is important for you as the curriculum leader to keep everyone well informed. I did this in a number of ways.

  • Department meetings at the beginning of each term usually on the Student Free Days.
  • Regular memos to all staff as issues arise. Each teacher had their own pigeon holes into which went all memos and personal information. I used different coloured paper on which I published memos. e. g. yellow might be used for important notices; green might include information about assessment; white might contain information of a general nature. The advantage of coloured paper is that it doesn’t get lost among the reams of white paper collected by teachers over a school year.
  • Use of email. Remember emails remain recorded within the computer and are not lost. You might decide on a code to indicate to teachers the priority of each email.
  • Once a week, at a staff morning tea. Here I informally kept my staff aware of current and developing issues.
  • Staff meetings during term were only called when a new issue arose that had not been considered at the beginning of term meetings. I would run these meetings before school for 30 minutes maximum beginning at 8.15am. This allowed staff time to prepare for class at 9 a. m.
  • One on one meeting. Apart from my end of year meeting with teachers one on one, I would meet with a teacher when issues related to them were referred to me either by the administration or at the teacher’s request. Sometimes, a fellow teacher might draw me aside to explain a colleague was having problems and needed some help.
  • Open door policy. This allowed teachers the immediate opportunity to bring serious issues quickly to my attention rather than wait for the next department meeting. Your department will only be successful if every staff member from the youngest to the most experienced feels a valued member of your team. There are ways you can develop this feeling of inclusion. One is to have an open door policy where any teacher is welcome to speak to you privately about any issue of concern.
  • Seeking opinions from staff. An extension of the above idea, at department meetings that you chair, is to ask for the opinions on issues under discussion from young teachers or teachers who usually prefer not to comment. Here you are working to have them realise that their opinion is valued and that your department needs their expertise and knowledge to gain the best outcome for your students.
  • Coordinators meetings. Every year level or separate subject had a coordinator. This person set up the work program, offered teaching suggestions including what teaching aids, computer software and calculator programs to use; wrote assessment items and oversaw the marking of these tasks. Where possible, I would attend these meeting to keep abreast of developments in each area, even if I was not teaching in that year level.
  • Report from Head of Department meetings. These meetings with the administration set the directions in which the school would move. I often gave this report at our weekly department morning tea get together.
  • Seeking Advice. No one is the font of all knowledge, no matter how experienced they are. It is important to be humble enough to seek advice from others who have experience within your department. This again adds credence to your attempts to make all members of your staff feel valued. It is also important to listen to young staff as well. Their knowledge of the use of modern technology and educational pedagogue may prove invaluable.
  • One final point: there will always be one or two staff members in a big department that are not always up to date with what is going on. Be aware of who they are and issue quiet reminders to them privately to keep them on side.

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