The other day, one of my students told me that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I found this “fun fact” quite intriguing. There is so much “good” happening in our schools today. We know more today than ever before about how our children best learn, and we are working to create environments where students are creative, collaborative, and ask questions. We have much to smile about!
The reality is that many are frowning an awful lot about public education these days, despite the knowledge that positivity goes so much farther. Between negative media coverage to federal and state politicians creating more policy, our schools are feeling negative pressure. Teachers and administrators are stressed with increasing mandates, and accountability through rigorous state tests have, in some cases, produced testing factories.
It is time for public education to paint a different picture, but it must come from within. Negativity gets us nowhere. Positivity can change our landscape for the better, but we must be the change we wish to see. We cannot wait for someone else to do it.
Teachers and administrators need to become our public school cheerleaders, sharing our story of the day-to-day successes we witness every moment of the day. It is not just the principal’s job to showcase our learning; it is every educator’s job to be our school’s cheerleader. Our school’s team is counting on us to be positive, powerful storytellers to protect our schools and the fantastic learning that occurs within its walls.
Teachers and administrators need to become our public school cheerleaders
While face-to-face conversations are always the most effective and productive way to share our story, today’s digital tools make a multi-faceted approach to sharing the great activities and learning happening in our schools a dynamic contribution to our public relation’s vision.
This year, my goal has been to share more of what is happening in our school through positive digital tools. Communicating activities along with building positive relationships through these communication means have been of utmost importance. Here are a few of the ways I have been sharing our story, striving to champion the great work being done for our students daily.
Remind, formerly Remind 101, has transformed the way I send mass messages to my parents and staff. It is a one-way messaging system, sending messages through text and/or email. I have a Remind account that I use for my staff and for my parents throughout the school. Through Remind, I am able to communicate basic information, but also share pictures, videos, and documents with our families and staff. It is one of my first ways to connect and share with our parents, and it has so far been a positive one.
Animoto & YouTube
I believe visuals can truly tell a story. This year, I have taken the visuals from school – pictures from events in the school – to a new level. Each month, I ask all the teachers and instructional assistants in the school to send me pictures of learning happening in their classrooms. Teachers take photos of students collaborating, reading, working, presenting, sharing, and participating in fun activities. While many share these on their websites, I pull them all together in a 5-6 minute video, using Animoto to create the video, then uploading to my YouTube channel.
Each month, I capture the great learning through snapshots, and then share this video with all our families using Remind, Twitter, email, and our school website. The response has been tremendous, and now, I have more pictures than I know what to do with! Parents love seeing their children learning, and this celebrates all the fantastic opportunities our students take part in each day at our school. Here is a sample of our latest learning video!
While antiquated, this is still a staple for our school in telling our story. Many parents and community members rely on the school and teacher websites to share information of what is happening in the school/classroom. This year, we decided to take this one step farther. Now with every teacher and even me using Google Sites, the visuals on the website tell our story. Embedded into my Principal’s Page, along with many other teacher websites, we have created our Learning Showcase, a page devoted to the visual depiction of the amazing learning and things our students do each day in our school. Not only can websites offer information, they can also showcase our amazing students.
I have had a school Twitter account for two years. It is yet another way for me to share learning happening in our school. I tweet events, words of encouragement, pictures, videos, and newsletters through our Twitter account. More than that, I encourage all of my staff to have their own professional Twitter account, sharing what is happening in their classrooms. Once they tweet those pictures and instructional opportunities, I retweet them using the Twitter account. We have even created our own hashtag so anyone can tweet about our amazing students!
Most the above approaches feature one-way communication with parents through digital tools. However, there is one component which has not yet been discussed – feedback from our stakeholders. Thus far, feedback has come through conversation with families and staff, and has been in forums such as the Parent Coffee Chat I created quarterly for parents and community members to attend. I am always looking for digital tools that can enhance our message and invite feedback, but other than the occasional survey, face-to-face feedback is the most worthwhile and powerful form I have yet to find.
I am by no means an expert on public relations in schools. But I do know that by ramping up our communication with our families, showcasing our great learning and communicating with them frequently, it has had a profound and powerful impact on the culture of our school. Positivity is contagious and does not take nearly the muscle that negativity drains from a person.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Mike Morbeck.