We have heard many times that students don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Like so many great ideas, strategies and tools from the classroom, we forget that they are just as valid for administrators, teachers, parents and whole communities as well.
“Your school community won’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
So, how do we help our school communities to know that we care? I think we need to borrow three important strategies from our classrooms.
1. Know our learner
3. Visible learning
1. We can’t know how to program for a student (or connect with a community) until we really know them. Sound time consuming? That’s because it is! It takes time and it needs to be a priority in our day. We need to be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with the community and find out what’s important to them. We can’t wait for formal school or community events to get going. There is so much to be learned from daily interactions with parents, guardians and community members. Before and after the bell are busy times for administrators and school staff. Staff, parents, students and others often need us then (right then). They will find us, wherever we are. So why not let them find us in the hallways, schoolyard or at the front doors? That’s where the community is and it’s where we can make those connections.
2. We know one size does not fit all in a classroom full of diverse learners. A school community is just as diverse and deserves the same differentiated approach. We need find out where community members are and meet them there. We know there is a gap in communication readiness throughout our communities. Some welcome, email, push notifications, tweets and other electronic communications. Others need the yard conversation, phone call or the printed newsletter. A whole community approach has a time and place. Try to think “Why this communication strategy – for this parent – at this time?” Once we have their attention, we can take them from their Point A to their Point B. School communities have many informal networks operating inside them. Every time we connect with a parent or guardian we are contributing to those networks. If we don’t tell our story, they will.
3. Much has been done in schools to help make learning visible for students in classrooms and hallways. Our community needs to know and appreciate our learning as well. School improvement planning is becoming more transparent as the plans move from the principal’s desk to the staff room to the cloud. Show parents what you and your staff are learning, how they are learning it and how it impacts their children. That contributes to the community’s confidence in public education and more importantly to the idea that we are all continually learning to make our schools better for their children.
So reach out, be accessible and show them you are a learner.
Then, they’ll know.