Communication to all of a school’s key stakeholders is one of the hardest things to do well. When I do parental and staff satisfaction surveys for schools, inevitably, the effectiveness of the school’s communication is usually one of the lowest scoring metrics.
The growth of social media has both helped and made it vastly more complex to communicate important information to your key stakeholders. Is this information that should go out via text, in a handout to be taken home, placed on the website, or does it deserve a phone call? It is hard to figure out the best way to communicate in a way that ensures that important information is heard.
There is no magic solution to the Gordian knot of communication. However, there are a few things that you can do to improve your school communication efforts.
Administration to Teacher
It should be obvious that a school’s administration is on the same side as its teachers, but there can often be a disconnect between the two groups. It might be difficult for a teacher to put themselves in an admin’s shoes, and vice versa, as the two professions deal with very different parts of the organization.
To make sure everyone communicates effectively, begin the year by ensuring that everyone participates in setting the school’s goals for the year. Whether it’s improving retention rates, driving up the math scores or increasing parental involvement, uniting around a set of shared goals gives your team direction and cohesion. If everyone understands the importance of these goals, there is now a common ground from which to communicate.
Working toward the same goal can also increase empathy. Knowing that everyone is on the same side can help cool tempers when an admin is too busy to help with something, or a teacher disagrees with a policy change. You’re both working hard to ensure these students receive a good education; you’re just coming at it from different directions.
School to Parent
You won’t find too many parents apathetic towards the whole “communication” thing. Parents and guardians want to know what their children are learning and how they’re performing. And with the internet in our pockets, they also want to be able to contact a teacher or administrator at the drop of a hat. While making yourself available for instant communication isn’t always possible (or wise), there are many ways to improve communication between schools and parents.
You can start by committing to consistency. If you send newsletters to parents, do it at regular intervals. Same with social media or blog posts. Consistency and frequency are key because parents don’t want surprises. They want to know where to get their information and when they can expect it. And remember in this day of short attention spans, often you must repeat the message multiple times before it sticks.
Next, make it easy for parents to receive and understand communication that is important to them. Allow them to track their child’s individual classroom requirements via tools like ClassDojo, ClassTag, and Remind, and make sure to train parents on how to use these systems. Parents will love you even more if your school standardizes on just one system. That way they won’t have to relearn a new system every year, or even worse, juggle different tools because every teacher uses something different!
Clearly communicate to both parents and teachers what the standard turnaround time is for communication. Helping parents understand that teachers will respond within 24 hours can prevent some angry calls to the principal and it also might give a gentle nudge to some of your teachers who are slow to respond.
It’s also helpful to remember that school communication is a two-way street. Rather than treating parents like information receptacles, encourage collaboration and conversation. Go beyond the once-a-semester parent/teacher conference by holding multiple events that allow parents a closer look at what goes on in their child’s classroom. Many parent-teacher conferences are rushed and may not allow the opportunity for more relaxed conversations about the shared goal of educating the child.
A regularly conducted school satisfaction survey is another fantastic tool to help you understand what your parents are thinking and where they would like you to improve. This is a great tool if you are just beginning to figure out where there is a disconnect between your key groups.
School to Community
Educational institutions often act as local community centers. Partnering with local citizens, businesses, and non-profits can give students access to more resources and learning experiences. One key to a strong relationship between school and community is keeping everyone informed while making them feel heard. You can accomplish this in a number of ways. Starting a principal’s blog, for instance, is a relatively simple way of broadcasting the school goings-on to the community, and the community goings-on to the school. Same with social media, as both of these platforms are open to all, easily accessed, and easily disseminated.
To maximize social media’s potential, consider helping local community groups communicate to their constituencies by sharing their posts. Soon, these groups will reciprocate and start doing the same with your posts. The more you help each other, the smaller and more connected your world becomes.
And then there are events. An October hayride on the school’s front lawn or a chili cook-off in the cafeteria can draw families, friends, and neighbors. A culture night or book exchange can bring everyone together under one roof and promote togetherness. You could even offer to host a local real estate seminar or a chamber of commerce networking event. Not only are these are great ways to improve engagement with the community, but they can also be easily turned into recruiting events for prospective students.
- Members of the administration and faculty can communicate better with each other by setting shared goals and remembering that they are all on the same side.
- Schools can more effectively communicate with parents by committing to consistency (newsletters, blogs, social media posts), using a standardized parent engagement app, and collaborating with parents through open houses, meet-and-greets, and regularly surveying their parental base
- Schools can facilitate strong communications with their community by reaching out through blog posts and social media, interacting with other local social media groups, and turning the school into a community hub with family-friendly events and activities.