When school communication occurs in silos, the gaps can paralyze us from doing our best for students. How can we change this for each and every student?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” As educators, communication is our greatest transactional tool yet we often times do not know if a true transaction has taken place. The explosion of communications channels in the last several years — Facebook Messenger, SIS communication, Remind, SMS, newsletters, phone calls, e-mails — only compounds the issue. There are so many ways that students and parents are inundated with transactional information! Our primary customer is our families and our primary product is our students. How can we as educators leverage our current data systems to better serve our customers to produce a stronger product? How can we support the various modalities that teachers, counselors, coaches, administrators, support personnel favor — and find the best way to reach each child and family where they are — while preventing chaos, confusion, and communication breakdowns?

I frequently speak with educators, both within my district and elsewhere, who struggle with the same issue. School communication is happening, but it is happening in silos. One student information system allows clinicians and teachers to record communication, but it is logged in three different locations and not all stakeholders have access to all three locations.Each team member has a piece of the puzzle, but no one has the whole picture of what’s happening or what can help each child. How can we combine the process of communicating with the process of sharing that communication into a fluid process rather than an “extra” step? At Intellispark, we are working to fuse school communication into the intervention and support process so that all members of the team supporting each child have the information they need at the right time.

A staff member doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know, and those communication gaps can be paralyzing when trying to do our best on behalf of students. Just a few weeks ago, I was discussing a case with a counselor who had been working with a student to improve executive functioning skills. In this meeting, like many others I’m in frequently, it quickly became apparent that multiple staff have been initiating independent communication and that few are aware of the context or totality of interaction, leading to redundancy, confusion, and most important to a delay in providing effective student support. Imagine for a moment how much more efficient and effective student support would be with a system that allows communication to be more strategic and intentional, without being more difficult or time consuming.

Our passion at Intellispark is to bring understanding and knowledge to all stakeholders, and not just within the walls of the school. Families, and kids themselves, must play an active role in student success, and they need to be partners in school communication. Today’s technology can allow communication to be seamless and an innate process in our daily interactions. We believe in a holistic and intentional approach to communication — and to sharing that information with all who need it — that becomes part of the fabric of our daily work. Student success truly is a team sport, and no team can be effective without effective communication. The time has come to make communication work for us instead of against us by connecting communication with action in a way that unifies the efforts of the entire student support team.

Matthew Liberatore

Matthew Liberatore

Dr. Matt Liberatore, LCPC is the director of professional learning and student services for Township High School District 214, president of the Illinois School Counselor Association, and senior advisor to Intellispark.