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There are distinct ways that we can use decisive, direct words that take action and give our students and parents confidence in our ability to provide strong leadership. Studer Group suggests using five fundamentals of service called AIDET®. The letters stand for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, and Thank You. We can Acknowledge our students as individuals; Introduce ourselves in an effective manner that gives parents confidence; discuss Duration of time in clear, open way; give strong Explanations to student and parent questions; and Thank those we interact with for their time, communication and cooperation.

When meeting with parents and students Acknowledge them by name and make strong eye contact. This shows that you value them and are giving them your full attention. Acknowledging, however, goes beyond the initial greeting of a parent or student. When discussing a student’s progress with a parent, to answer “Billy is doing pretty well in math” is insubstantial, even as an introduction to the topic. Answering in more concrete ways “Billy has a strong grasp on multiplication; however, he is struggling to understand long division” not only provides a sounding board for starting a proactive conversation on Billy’s education, but it also indicates the concern, notice and individual attention you give to Billy. It is apparent to Billy’s parents that you’ve taken time to truly invest in and acknowledge him as an individual.

When first meeting your students’ parents, or on the first day of class, Introduce yourself, your skill set, your professional certification and experience. Share with your students and their parents why they should have confidence in your ability to teach and lead them.

When a student raises his/her hand to ask for help on an assignment, instead of saying “I’ll be with you as soon as possible,” which leaves the student uncertain of how long he or she will have to wait, try phrases such as “When I am done helping Missy, I will come help you next.  It shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes.” The student has a cue to look for. They know that they will be helped next, which gives students a Duration of time. This builds student confidence in us when we give an accurate estimation of time; however, it does not need to only be reserved for our students. In discussing with a parent the actions that you will take with their child, using specific language related to time allows the parent to 1) be able to check progress over that time line and 2) have confidence that you will take these actions because there is a lack of ambiguity.

What do you say to the parent whose child is terrified of the kindergarten classroom and will not stop crying? “I will personally take Suzie around and introduce her to the other children. Once she starts playing, she will feel much more comfortable. I also want to assure you that I will be giving her the attention she needs to feel secure here.” There is a specific action plan, and you are providing an Explanation of the step-by-step actions you will be taking. It builds confidence by giving clarity to the expectations. This approach should also be used when addressing action steps to improve a student’s reading and math scores, to raise his or her current grade or in helping students comprehend the course materials.

Take time to Thank the students who come in asking for help, or the parents who enter into a dialogue regarding their student’s progress. The students who choose to seek out help are a blessing. They are taking time to value their education. We want to foster and encourage this type of attitude, so thank those students who seek you out. Thank parents for their communication and cooperation in regards to their child’s education. We should be grateful for the parents who communicate with us, and we should let them know that we are thankful for them.

Our words are powerful. Let us find ourselves using strong, positive words; words that give our students, parents and community members confidence in us and our ability to lead this generation.


Special thanks to guest blogger Dr. Karen Schulte, Superintendent, School District of Janesville, Wisconsin. View previous contributions by Dr. Schulte: Words are Powerful, Blue Ribbon School Formula, Guide to Developing an Employee Handbook, and Evidence-Based Leadership.

Join Dr. Schulte and other leaders on October 11, 2012, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN, and learn from and engage with superintendents, board members, and principals with proven results in student achievement and employee and parent satisfaction. Learn More: What’s Right in Education: Evidence-Based Leadership – It works!