New Zealand’s best oral communication teachers?
They live next door to you. And across the road. And around the corner.
Some dress in 3-piece suits every day to teach. Others, in track pants and a hoodie. Others still, dress in pyjamas until midday.
The parents of Kiwi kids are (potentially) New Zealand’s best communication teachers. There’s no doubt that they’re the most important teachers.
That’s the position of a recent Stuff opinion piece called “Children need to learn to speak well to function in society.”
We agree 100% with the article, and so we thought it important to do a review of the main points that it covers, and do our bit to spread the reach of the article to more NZ parents, who may not have seen it when it was originally published.
What we liked about the article
Written by speech expert Miriam McKenzie of New Zealand speech training company Say It Clearly Ltd, the article is clear and easy to read.
Although the general sentiment of the piece is likely to be familiar to most readers, it has some smaller details which serve as reminders and motivators to us as NZ parents, as well citing some interesting international research projects about oral communication skills.
For example, the assertion that a good foundation of oral communication skills isn’t built “through flashcards or “educational” TV / Youtube channels”. It’s the article’s opinion that in fact, good foundational oral communication skills are built through life experiences – “easy and free activities that bring new knowledge to the child’s world.”
We love that.
In a day and age when technology is being touted as the saviour to so many of society’s challenges (often quite rightly), we agree wholeheartedly with Miriam McKenzie that learning oral communication skills isn’t about kids having more RAM, CPU or IoT to learn from.
It’s about having more MUM & DAD.
New Zealand’s best oral communication teachers are in fact, New Zealand parents.
The case for strong oral language skills
McKenzie doesn’t mince words in her article. Or her opinions.
She makes a strong opening to her article, citing some of the perils of having poor oral communication skills:
“Rising levels of anxiety, and not having the ability to articulate feelings results in a lot of challenging behaviours – sometimes violent behaviours like bullying.
Children that have a reduced vocabulary don’t engage in conversation, and they struggle in school with reading and writing.”
And if that doesn’t grab you strongly enough, she goes on in the article to summarise the findings of an OECD-focused research project.
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) places New Zealand below 20 other countries in the OECD. Even more worryingly? Our results have “declined significantly” since the project began in 2001.
New Zealand’s (potentially) best communication teachers
It’s not all doom and gloom. The foundation of good oral communication skills can be built reasonably easily.
The process is relatively easy. And free. And the power is in your hands.
As parents, we have the responsibility of being our own children’s first, and potentially best and most influential communication teacher.
So how do we do it?
According to Miriam McKenzie (and we completely agree), it’s as uncomplicated as putting time and attention into sharing ‘life experiences’ with our youngsters. Such as; direct eye contact, hugs and cuddles, quiet speech, humming and singing, and taking conversational turns.
Forget Pokemon cards, L.O.L surprise eggs, Hatchimals or Barbie Dreamhouses.
As parents, one of the best gifts you can give your child is an early head start towards developing good oral language communication skills.
At Head Held High, our teachers feel so lucky and privileged to be the co-givers of this precious gift to NZ kids, every day.
But we’re only co-givers alongside NZ parents, and that’s why we feel so strongly about spreading the message that Miriam McKenzie makes in her Stuff article.
The more of our students that see strong examples of positive oral communication skills at home with their parents, the easier it is for us to add the icing on the cake, and help to develop the next generation of happy, confident, and creative New Zealand children.
(PS. Our thanks to another of our NZ allies in teaching positive communication, Anna Keno of Giant Leaps Speech Co, for first bringing this Stuff article to our attention on her own Facebook page)