Staying on top of it all

Smartphone applications make it understandable why many families can’t keep up. Picture supplied.

The summer school holidays have flown by, and the days of long sleep-ins, late nights, minimal commitments and vacation care fun are coming to a close. December and January are the two months of the year when we can take our foot off the pedal and slow down, enjoying family, friends, festivities and recovery. Social media newsfeeds are filled with holiday snaps and backyard fun, showing families and friends coming together during the quieter time of the year.

The relief from homework, never-ending forms, and essential but excessive correspondence have been welcomed for those still navigating school-aged children.

The influx of communication commencing before the school year begins signifies an organised yet overwhelming shock back to reality. The time of year I dread when the ‘sign here’ and ‘agree here’ and ‘tick this box here’ requests fly into my inbox and mailbox at a rapid pace from multiple schools, clubs and groups, having me secretly wish they’d move to Microsoft Forms or JotForm’s for the replies expected. Print, sign, scan, email… repeat.

While all correspondence is undoubtedly required, I wonder what collaborative conversations have occurred within each provider when considering the number and frequency of messages being delivered and what each message is saying to identify if there is duplication. Is there a more straightforward way to communicate and condense the content? Are unnecessary words being used to fill space? Is the aim to ensure the message is out there regardless of if it can be absorbed so that the awareness and responsibility are out of the hands of the provider?

I’ve always found it quite fascinating to watch the different communication styles across various contexts and circumstances. I guess it’s this curiosity, as well as observational learning, which has me fixated and equally frustrated reflecting on what works and doesn’t. We don’t get this right in the world of internal corporate business either, even with dedicated communications teams.

Many years ago, there was a service provider who supported my two older children when they were much younger, and their re-enrolment process each year filled me with dread. It was a form spanning 20 pages, and I made each page as generic as possible so that I could fill out one page, change the name on the cover and copy. The frustration each time this request arrived was very real, and I couldn’t understand why such an elaborate request was required every year.

While I appreciate that circumstances change for families and that records must be accurate regarding children in particular, it always had me wondering if the over-complicated process was dated and hadn’t been reviewed or simply because it was required for auditing purposes. I doubt it was the latter, as I’ve never been subjected to such a process from another provider in the same industry.

With smartphone applications for providers updating and notifications buzzing, plus emails and mail arriving thick and fast, it’s understandable why many families can’t keep up, especially with multiple children at various schools, clubs and groups.

When it comes to communicating effectively, I like to remind myself that communication is not key; comprehension is. And in today’s overwhelming world of information overload, to achieve comprehension means that sometimes it can take the repetition of a message, on average seven times, for a person to hear it for the first time.

As I look at the school year ahead, for the first time, I am considering the next two years. With my eldest now moving into Year 11, the next 18 months will be significant. Everything learnt to date has set the scene and foundation for the final journey of school, and this is no longer a take-it-each-year-as-it-comes approach and rather a marathon to reach the destination, navigating each hurdle as it arrives and celebrating each success on the journey.

These critical years of school are territory I haven’t experienced myself, and therefore unrelatable leaving me feeling quite out of depth in how to support adequately. Of course, I have no dilemma admitting this publicly, considering my children will never know I’m in over my head; after all, who reads Mums column?

What I can do, though, is focus on what I know and what I know is promoting the value of education in a variety of forms, fostering engagement in schooling, navigating life as a young adult and having a support network that enables success, and is there to pick you up when you inevitably learn (fail). Wish me luck.