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Monday, January 18, 2016

A COMMUNICATIONS CURRICULUM

BRYCE ON EDUCATION

- What should High School students know about this important subject.

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For the last few years I have sat on a board of directors for a special business school at our local high school. The purpose of this program is to prepare students for the business world. In addition to teaching technical skills, community leaders address the students as part of a lecture series. We have discussed such things as career path planning, the use of math in business, adapting to the corporate culture, and more. Recently we began discussing future topics for next year. Among the ideas presented was the subject of communications as it was felt students are having difficulty adapting to business environments without such skills.

Having been a college communications graduate myself, I realize this is a robust subject area. However, for high school students, I considered what would be a suitable curriculum. Keep in mind, a lot of this is based from the vantage point of someone who has had a ring side seat observing management and Information Technology for nearly forty years. Here is what I would like to see adopted for a communications curriculum at the high school level:

Written Communications - Writing a decent business letter is essential, yet we must recognize most of today's written communications is delivered by e-mail. Nonetheless, learning how to properly address someone, be it for sales or customer service purposes, is necessary for success. Interestingly, it was pointed out to me that most high school students do not use e-mail, preferring text messaging or use of social media instead. I assumed most students made active use of e-mail. Unfortunately, they do not which is another reason for them to brush up on their writing skills.

The fundamentals of giving a speech - whether it is for the presentation of an argument, to perform a lecture, of for humorous purposes, students should understand the basics of rhetorical thought, persuasion, and negotiations. This includes the three canons of speech as represented by ethos (an appeal based on the character of the speaker), pathos (emotional appeal) and logos (logical argument). In discourse, we will likely use all three when making a presentation, but it is necessary students understand what they mean and how to use them. Personally, I would like to see the students stand on a soap box and give a five minute speech to classmates passing by at lunch time. This would help them overcome their fear of speaking and give them the confidence to argue a point.

Conducting a meeting - unless students understand the basics for running a meeting, they will likely waste the time of everyone involved for years to come, thereby turning a useful communications tool into something counterproductive. An introduction to Robert's Rules of Order (Parliamentary Procedure) would be useful to teach the mechanics of a well structured meeting.

Interviewing - this will likely affect their lives going forward from now on, be it for a job or for college placement.

And finally, Common Courtesy - aside from a student's ability to write and speak, they will be judged by their ability to socialize with others. This specifically includes their ability to cooperate and work harmoniously with people. This is much more than just "please and thank you," but also includes how to conduct introductions (handshakes), greeting people, and generally getting along with others.
This may all seem rather obvious, but these are important life lessons which will serve young people throughout their academic and professional careers. I just wish I had known some of this before going to college. It would have certainly made my life a lot easier (and more productive).

Related articles:
"All I ask about running a Meeting" (April 5, 2013)
"The Art of Persuasion" (February 20, 2006)
"Business Writing" (April 20, 2015)
"Common Courtesy" (September 24, 2012)

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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