Building and maintaining your school’s reputation is paramount in today’s world. There are so many terrific learning experiences taking place on a daily basis, yet often, schools do not expose parents and other key stakeholders to those experiences. When this happens, one result is that people begin to question the education students are receiving and if their tax money truly is being put to good use. That is why schools must take the initiative and exhaust all options when engaging stakeholders. The bottom line is this: If you don’t tell your school’s story, somebody else will...and it may not be accurate or complimentary.
Today’s 21st century parents and other school stakeholders look to social media, websites, blogs, and other forms of innovative communications to stay current and informed. A sense of pride and belonging emanates from stakeholders when they feel more of a connection with school and educational events.
Specific and Intentional
When it comes to schools and how they are portrayed in the media, often the positive aspects of education are overshadowed by the negative aspects: tragic school shootings, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, extreme budget crises where teachers and programs are cut, drug overdoses, and other negative stories come flashing across the news. As school leaders and teachers, we need to turn the discussion around; we need to be proactive to accentuate the positive.
In an effort to promote the positive, schools need to be specific and intentional in every communication with parents and other stakeholders. Why not provide a transparent educational environment that is forthright and proactive? It's so incredibly easy with today's technology to disseminate your message and develop open lines of communication with stakeholders. Parents in particular love the added positive attention their child's school receives on Twitter, Facebook, online newspapers, websites blogs and newsletters. As a 21st century school leader or teacher, creating the message can happen with a few taps of your mobile device. The possibilities are endless and, in the long run, even more rewarding for every stakeholder in an educational field.
Transparency and Buy-In
Letting parents and other stakeholders into our school’s world is imperative. Whether highlighting academic or extracurricular achievements, there is so much to be proud of and to want to share. Every “tweetable moment” and “Facebook post” provides a sense of pride in the school community. Leveraging the power of social media tools and other online resources creates a transparent school culture. Building relationships with parents, community, and students through good times and bad goes a long way in developing and expanding a school culture of trust. The buy-in becomes contagious and enables stakeholders to be more confident in all areas of a school’s efforts.
Promote and Inform
Promoting student and staff achievements is imperative if a strong school culture is to exist. For example, our outstanding school principal, Mr. Robert Mullen was recognized by colleagues as Morris County’s “Friend of Education.” Overall, as a staff we felt it was our duty to let the public know about this wonderful accomplishment. Therefore, I took a picture of the recognition banner with my iPhone and uploaded it to Twitter and Facebook. It was amazing to see the number of comments that were posted from parents and community members alike congratulating Mr. Mullen.
Informing is just as important as promoting and relaying timely information is incredibly important as well. This means that leveraging the power of social media, mobile devices, and web-based resources quite frankly is no longer an option for educators--it is essential. With today’s technology it is incredibly easy for schools to promote student learning experiences through Twitter. It’s also an expectation that many stakeholders have in order to stay relevant with school happenings. The same can be said for promoting staff accomplishments. I work with an outstanding science teacher who routinely calls me up and to share a “tweetable moment.”
The reality is that people pay attention to and appreciate recognition. It contributes immensely to a positive school culture and leads to communication opportunities everyone can enjoy.
Information is Power
The more information that is disseminated about the great things going on in your school, the better. In particular, parents must have many options available to them to make sense of what is going on in their child’s school. Through social media feeds, monthly roundtables, digital newsletters, blogs, podcasts, and various informal conversations, there are now many options available for stakeholders to receive information.
However, there must be a greater goal than simply receiving information. When needed, a constant dialogue should transpire in order to address concerns or resolve issues. For example, let’s discuss the beloved “snow day.” Instead of solely relying on sharing this information through a phone chain or automated system (a school’s usual methodology), why not utilize Twitter and Facebook? We must remember that people want information in real time that is easily accessible on their social media stream or through an app. Information is power, and stakeholders should not struggle to access information that is important to them.