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Creating Dialog in a Changing World

Education is at the heart of fostering young minds and building aptitudes in critical thinking, communication and problem-solving. It’s also the start of developing employable skills that better students’ future opportunities. 

A lot has changed at U.S. schools in recent years. In addition to the massive shift to virtual learning during COVID-19, students have been bombarded with new technologies, fake news, book bans and other trends that impact how they learn. 

What’s more, our classrooms have become more diverse. Schools still lag behind in upholding inclusive attitudes and empowering students who come from diverse backgrounds. This is especially the case for those who face adversity or barriers to learning, such as limited English skills. 

Overall, our educational organizations are struggling to keep pace with all these changes and start the meaningful conversations necessary to help students reach their full potential. 

To this end, our experts at Dialog One have analyzed the challenges to sparking dialog among students, teachers and parents. Our hope is that the exploration below will inspire schools to bridge communication gaps and improve all students’ well-being, educational outcomes and more.

A Vision of Our Changing World

Schools are on the front lines of shaping our youth. As education evolves, schools constantly have to rethink how to meet students’ needs. Several key trends are influencing how we connect with and ultimately support students.

As a whole, our changing world requires education to have a more personalized approach, where we understand students’ identities and challenges. It’s vital to connect with them on a one-to-one level in order to help them overcome adversities and equip them to succeed. 

Challenges of Creating Dialog in Schools

Unfortunately, communication breakdowns in schools have become the rule, not the exception. As we strive to improve connections among students, teachers and parents, it’s essential to understand the challenges our educational institutions are facing. 

Here we’ve documented some of the current trends that are negatively impacting our young people, so that we can chart a way forward from here. 

With Students

1. Belittling instead of empowering.

We get it: teachers are overwhelmed by big class sizes, packed timetables and limited resources. In fact, 59% of teachers today report feeling burned out at school

Stress and impatience in the classroom are leading teachers to use language that unknowingly diminishes their students. For example, it’s not uncommon for frustrated teachers to say “shut up” to students, or other dismissive phrases such as “that’s wrong,” “I already explained this” or “it’s not that hard.”

Negative language and tone are major factors in kids’ ability to learn. There’s a huge difference between saying “I already explained this” vs. “who can help recap how to do this?”. Or saying “it’s not that hard” vs. “what questions do we have?”. 

Often this belittling language is unintentional. Even so, it can lead to shrinking students’ confidence and making them reluctant to ask questions. 

2. Inculcating a fear of speaking up.

Another consequence of negative language is silence. The popular phrase “children should be seen, not heard” is hardly conducive to learning. 

“Silent classrooms,” where students don’t speak up or interact, are coming under greater scrutiny today. These days, students prefer to follow the teacher’s rules and just keep to themselves. Within some classroom environments, some may even feel afraid to speak up and share their opinion, resulting in a sense of “hopelessness.” 

This fear to participate not only affects their ability to learn and ask questions, but also dampers their enthusiasm and self-expression. 

3. Favoring the group > individual. 

It’s tough to customize learning to a classroom with 35+ kids, each with their own background, needs and talents. As a result, individual issues usually get ignored in favor of the group. 

This especially comes into play when students have unique barriers to learning, such as limited English, ADHD, a disability, etc. Students may also face a subject matter gap after transferring from another school, or simply don’t respond to traditional learning styles. 

When teachers focus on group performance, discipline and opinion, these needs tend to get lost in the shuffle. An immigrant child with immense creativity, for example, may be shuttered from expressing her talents because she’s struggling to communicate in English. 

Even more pressing, these barriers may impact the student’s ability to graduate and access career opportunities. Recent studies suggest that 35 U.S. states graduate less than 70% of limited English speakers.

4. Sidelining diverse student voices. 

Our classrooms today are extraordinarily diverse. While schools may make an effort to celebrate this diversity, they forget that it starts with elevating student voices and reducing discriminatory practices. 

It’s well-documented, for example, that black students are 2.4 times as likely to get suspended or expelled. At the same time, English language learners have a 20% higher likelihood of being suspended compared to other students.

Researchers are quick to note that this isn’t primarily caused by differences in behaviors, but rather how marginalized students (particularly Black, Latino and American Indian) are treated and supported. lol

What’s more, these students are more likely to face poverty, adversity and trauma compared to their peers. For this reason, it’s vital to create more robust support for diverse students and give them room to express their needs, interests and talents. Studies suggest that creating these inclusive spaces can boost graduation rates by up to 6%.

With Parents and Families

1. Relying on mass email.

Let’s be honest: mass email is not a conversation. It’s understandable that teachers and administrators are overloaded and want to use streamlined communication. Yet, so often emails don’t reach parents or give them the specific information they need. 

This can make it difficult for parents to keep up with classroom events and their kid’s progress. It also misses the personal touch needed to start a real dialog with families. 

2. Ignoring cultural barriers to technology. 

These days, it’s easy to rely on technology to communicate with student families. Whether through a website, social media or Google Meet, schools are leveraging these tools to stay in touch. 

Though these efforts are noble, sometimes parents aren’t culturally attuned to these communication methods. They may not be on social media or know how to log onto Google Meet for a parent-teacher meeting. Sometimes sticking to traditional phone calls and texts accomplishes more than these new technologies. 

Language differences can also exacerbate these barriers. Having a school phone line available in Spanish, or sending letters home in the family’s preferred language can make a huge difference in connecting with families. 

3. Limiting contact to major events and emergencies. 

Schools are quick to send updates for major events and emergencies. But other types of non-urgent issues get left out – such as what the class is currently learning, how students are progressing, what challenges and successes they’ve experienced, etc. 

Sometimes the non-urgent contact is the most meaningful to families and helps orient them towards helping their kids succeed. One way that teachers are doing this is through a weekly classroom update or text that’s auto-translated into the family’s home language. 

With Teachers

1. Policing instead of connecting. 

Teachers are leaders in setting the tone for dialog at schools. Sadly, classroom language is often focused on policing behavior instead of connecting with students. Misunderstandings then arise from this lack of connection and/or dismissal of student backgrounds. 

Consider the real-life scenario of a newly arrived student from a remote town in Ecuador. This student accidentally pulled the fire alarm, believing it was a way to open a school door. Unfortunately, the alarm sounded while other students were taking ACT exams. As a result, the Ecuadorian student was expelled. 

Though disciplinary action may have been warranted, there was no discussion of the student’s cultural background. It’s likely that this student had never seen a modern fire alarm in his remote town and genuinely didn’t know what it was. In addition, the student didn’t even understand that he was expelled and returned the next semester, trying to re-enroll. 

This incident goes to show how important it is to connect with students within their cultural context. Doing so may be the key to avoiding these types of misunderstandings, which can be life-changing for students. 

2. Forming non-critical thinkers.

As we shape the next generation of leaders, it’s essential to build critical thinking skills. While teachers have made huge strides in encouraging students to think for themselves, there’s a way to go. 

The culprit behind this problem may be “teaching to the test.” 55% of teachers report that the emphasis on standardized testing makes it more challenging to foster critical thinking. This has the effect of forming minds that select the right answers, but can’t express an original opinion. 

Luckily, technology such as Chat-GPT has spurred teachers into designing assignments and tests that can’t be auto-generated. Instead they’re focusing on tasks that don’t have one “correct answer” and encourage students to critically consider how to form a response. 

3. Remaining unmotivated for change.

Finally, creating dialog at schools is even harder without enthusiasm behind it. There are plenty of good reasons why teachers and principals are stressed at higher numbers than ever. 

That said, we do a disservice to the next generation by throwing up our hands in defeat. It’s amazing how small changes at a school can snowball into larger positive effects. So much can be accomplished by teachers using positive language and attitudes with their students. Staying energetic for change is often the first step to actually accomplishing it. 

Creating Dialog-Focused Environments at Schools

The challenges in our educational system can feel utterly overwhelming. Yet, there’s still hope to improve dialog at our schools and discover new paths towards student success. To create more conversation-focused change, we believe in focusing on these four pillars. 

A New Priority of Human Value at School.

Solving the educational system’s complex challenges starts with a shift in mindset. Imagine what schools would look like if we could prioritize human value every step of the way. Where we empower students to overcome the adversities of their unique backgrounds. Where we develop their talents, encourage them to think independently and treat them as the promising young individuals that they are. 

All of these goals have an underlying attitude of humanity. To revitalize education, we need to keep this human-centered value at the forefront and move from saying “shut up” to “speak up.” 

A Mindfulness Towards Culture, As Well As Language. 

For limited English speaking students, language is usually an obvious factor in diversity. While it’s crucial to honor language and build communication bridges, we shouldn’t forget about the elephant in the room: culture. 

Culture is connected to everything we say and do. In school, cultural differences can impact a wide range of attitudes, including:

  • Teaching and learning styles
  • How respect is shown
  • How to ask questions and receive feedback
  • Small talk and taboo topics
  • Body language
  • Dress code
  • Beliefs and values

For example, students from other cultures may see American teachers as more or less formal than their home countries. They may not use the gesture of hand-raising or be familiar with U.S. teaching styles. 

Cultural differences are often overlooked in favor of direct communication. We can create more culturally aware classrooms by getting to know students on a one-on-one basis and encouraging them to share their heritage. This will earn their trust, prevent misunderstandings and build more inclusive classrooms. 

A Focus on Diversity Within Diversity. 

The U.S. classroom is becoming more diverse, with estimates showing that minority groups will account for just over 50% of the population by 2045

While diversity is always something to celebrate, it’s important that we see the vast range of identities at our schools. Staying inclusive means understanding that minority groups aren’t homogeneous. Every identity has depths of diversity that can’t be easily labeled. 

That’s why intentional inclusivity is crucial to meeting student needs at an individual level. Take for instance a school event designed to support Latin@ students. The level of diversity may be wide-ranging: students who do and don’t speak Spanish, those who were born in the U.S. and abroad, those who identify as Latino/a/e/x or Latin American or something else, those who belong to additional racial/ethnic groups, etc. 

The many distinctions at this one school event shows the necessity to really get to know students on a personal level and avoid making assumptions. It’s vital that we see the diversity within diversity to be intentional about staying inclusive.  

Dialog as the Starting Point for Change. 

It’s easy to give into despair that change is so slow at our educational organizations. Sometimes it feels like we take one step forward only to find ourselves two steps back.

But we can’t give up on the next generation. Although we can’t solve every issue facing our schools today, the most important changes happen when we start the dialog. Ultimately, dialog is our greatest tool to build connections, recognize individual identities, eliminate disparities and find common ground. 

In other words, dialog is the starting point for change. As one of our Dialog One experts puts it: “Without all voices, we’re missing part of the whole.” No matter the challenges we’re facing, let’s start having real, one-on-one conversations that ensure every single student is included in our greater whole. 

Boost Dialog at Your School With Dialog One

At Dialog One, heartful conversation is in our DNA. We’re strong advocates that creating dialog is the essence of building closer connections and better futures for young people across the U.S. 

As part of this mission, we provide robust translation and interpretation services to support schools and other educational organizations. Our hope is to bridge gaps and empower diverse populations who may have limited English abilities. 

We’re proud to hire linguists at the top of their fields who have elite language skills, cultural know-how and a track record of working with limited English speakers. Our success hinges on Dialog One’s excellent credentials, which include:

  • Specialized translation and interpretation. Our professionals have top accreditations and extensive experience collaborating with immigrant populations. 
  • Cultural sensitivity. Our linguists come from diverse backgrounds, maintain personal ties to cultural groups and achieve culturally-attuned language. 
  • High-caliber QA processes. We undergo a meticulous process called TEPC (Translation, Editing, Proofreading and Cultural review) to ensure quality meets the highest standards.
  • Latest translation technologies. We leverage best-in-class tools, such as CAT, Translation Memory (TM), specialized glossaries and interpretation apps/integrations. What’s more, we offer our own language app called Dovi
  • Airtight data security and compliance. We utilize the cybersecurity best practices to guarantee well-protected data, privacy and safety for our clients. 
  • Strategic business planning. We work closely with your organization to create a transparent quote that accounts for key considerations, including language pairs, technologies, content volume, availability and pricing.   

We’re ready to transform your educational organization with human-oriented language services for students, teachers and families. Contact us today to schedule a personalized consultation!

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