Schools are always struggling with the best way to convey information to parents – lots of information. Parent-teacher conferences, snow days, volunteer requests, schedule changes, menus, bus routes, PTO meetings, you name it. The list goes on and on and on.
While there’s no doubt that most of this information is essential, some of the most important STORIES get left by the wayside. They’re not told. And in missing the opportunity to tell those stories the school can fail to build community and its own brand.
The magic of what happens in our schools day in and day out fails to come to the surface. You know those stories.
Here’s what I’m talking about: Every day – and I mean every single day – miracles are happening at your school. A struggling early reader finally learns to string together those previously incomprehensible combinations of letters into words, then sentences, then stories. A painfully shy child lights up around a favorite teacher. The school band manages, after 62 run-throughs, to finish the song more or less at the same time. A class full of disparate and clashing personalities coalesces over the course of the year into a strong, inseparable group.
You know the magic I mean – you see it every day. You, the teacher, the principal, the volunteer parent…but does the rest of your school community see it?
Parents, who aren’t on the front lines in the school every day miss a lot of these moments as they’re happening in real time. That’s largely unavoidable – but if you make a point of incorporating these everyday triumphs into your school communications plan, the parents won’t miss out.
For example, Mrs. Hutchison, the Principal at Joyner Elementary (where my children go) actively updates her Twitter account and maintains a blog of these stories. It’s awesome and helps me get a good sense of my school community.
A huge part of the value of what you do as a school leader and communicator lies in the intangible and the unmeasurable – these are the priceless moments. To be able to share them with the parents at your school makes your whole community closer. It strengthens your brand. It turns uninvolved parents into fans and involved parents into raving fans. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Here are some ideas for making this happen:
1. Photos, photos, photos. The old saw is true: A picture is worth a thousand words. Share lots of photos with parents, as often as you can – secure systems like MemberHub make it both safe and easy. And of course using social media tools like Twitter is an amazing platform to tell your school story every day.
2. Remember your “Why”. No one goes into education to strike it rich! Make a point to step back every now and then and think about the importance of what you do. And then think about ways to share that deeper level of thinking with the entire school community. Then find a way to share it. There are so many.
3. Solicit feedback from your team. Your teachers are busy, to say the least! On a regular basis, ask them to tell you the best thing that happened in their classroom recently. Make notes and share their success stories (protecting students’ privacy as needed) in an all-school newsletter or blog post. SHARE THOSE STORIES!
4. Pick a Medium. There are so many ways to publish content these days. Seriously. Your website, blog, Twitter, Instagram, Videos, YouTube, Email, Facebook, SnapChat (yes, SnapChat), Periscope…the list goes on. Pick a medium and share these stories. And make sure your school community knows how to find them.
The day-to-day needs to be taken care of, but everything beyond that is where the real business of learning and growing happens. Don’t lose sight of that majestic forest amidst all those administrative trees – and don’t let your school’s parents, either.