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time to ditch education buzzwords

Flashback 2016: Time to Abandon Education Buzzwords

This week, we’re looking back at the stories that resonated the most with you in 2016. This story was first published in April.

“Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession.” It’s unclear which profession inspired Kingman Brewster, Jr. to utter these words, but given that he was a Harvard law professor and the president of Yale University, it’s a safe bet his experiences as an academic lifer helped shape his opinion.

Think of your work as a school leader. How many education buzzwords or phrases do you encounter in a single day, or meeting even? Efficacy, rigor, grit, 21st-century, excellence… Whether you’re talking to colleagues or vendors, the list goes on.

That vernacular might play well enough in team meetings and industry conferences. But how does it translate when you’re talking to parents and other members of your school community?

In an age where parents and family members demand clearer communication from their local schools, jargon and buzzwords can amount to a conversation killer.

So what should you do when you catch yourself using the same tired buzzwords to engage your school community?

Anya Kamenetz at NPR Ed recently asked folks on Twitter to submit their best “edujargon.” She then defined the terms she received with a text editor that restricted her to the 1,000 most common words in the English language. The result? A list of simple translations for some of the most egregious education clichés and catchphrases.

Here’s a few highlights:

Best practices
Let’s all do what the really good people do.

Closing the achievement gap 
Some students don’t do as well as other students and we can fix it by working harder.

People who try harder do better.

You have a good idea. Making it happen is the hard part.

Project-based learning 
Don’t just write words and numbers. Do something.

Teaching things step by step so the student can do more and more by herself.

Lots of people care what happens in schools, like students, teachers, parents, and leaders. You should listen to everybody.

For more jargon-y terms, read Kamenetz’ full list.

Next time you chat with a parent or send a message to your community, give careful consideration to the words you choose. Do your sentences contain a lot of boring jargon? Can parents and others easily understand the message you are trying to communicate?

It’s nearly impossible to have an open and honest dialogue with your community if you don’t speak in terms they can understand.

Have some education buzzwords you’d like to erase from your vocabulary? Share them in the comments. Or pass them along to Kamenetz on Twitter using #edujargon.

Looking for a better way to communicate clearly and consistently with your school community? Here’s one solution that might help.