17 Dec 2021

Building a Bridge or a Wall?

Creating Positive Outcomes at Parent Meetings


You may have heard the expression “the pen is mightier than the sword*” when the words we use have a profound impact on someone’s life.

As an educator, if that someone is a child and the words are part of a conversation with parents, those phrases must be clear. Alphabet soup, or acronyms, cause miscommunication and confusion during and after parent/teacher meetings.

The same is true during business meetings with clients or other stakeholders.

In both education and business, we speak our own language of acronyms that excludes all but our internal stakeholders—and even then we cannot be sure everyone understands our peculiar language!

Education Case In Point

Admissions, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings are highly structured and designed to help students with learning disabilities advance academically.

The goal is to delineate special accommodations into a student’s academic plan, such as instructional time, delivery of assignments, and how exams will be administered. These accommodations may remain in effect throughout the student’s education, from elementary through high school. Needless to say, these meetings are stressful for parents. When accommodations are agreed upon with the child’s best interest in mind, parents and teachers sign a document, which is essentially a contract.

Imagine how a parent feels when school administrators speak in acronyms, with sentences populated with ECI, IEP, and AAR. Suddenly, the meeting feels as if it is conducted in another language. Thus, a meeting intended to provide a communication bridge between parents and teachers becomes a wall.

Some of the terms and acronyms used every day by educators are meaningless to parents. In fact, hearing these acronyms adds an additional level of stress for parents who  may not be comfortable interrupting or don’t want to seem ignorant by asking for clarification. The unintended consequence is they nod through the entire meeting and end up feeling alienated and excluded from their child’s education.

As children and their families continue navigating a challenging academic environment and schools try their best to adapt, one thing is sure: build a bridge, not a wall, for parents who need clear, understandable, and direct language.


The Golden Rule for Using Acronyms

Unless you are 100 percent sure that everyone in the room speaks the same acronym language, say it out.

Early Childhood Intervention instead (ECI)
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Academic Achievement Record (AAR)

If you are in a large group of educators or business people who will get it after the first instance, go ahead and use the acronym after the first instance.

We do not recommend first-instance only during a parent / educator meeting due to the stressful circumstances it may involve. Always say it out, even when used repeatedly, in these types of meetings.


For more information on our training programs, contact us.


*from Cardinal Richelieu, 1839, by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton