As educators, we’ve heard many times that students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
This is one of the many great lessons from the classroom that also applies to administrators and support staff.
Your school community won’t care what you know until they know that you care.
So, how do we help our school communities know we care? We need to borrow three important strategies from our classrooms:
- Know our learner
- Know how they learn
- Keep learning visible
Know our learner
We can’t know how to program for a student (or connect with a community) until we really know them. Sounds 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 rings are busy times for administrators and school staff. This is often when other staff members, parents and students need us (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.
Know how they learn
We know one size does not fit all in a classroom full of diverse learners. Our teachers find out how students learn, and teach in a style that works for them. We call this ‘differentiated instruction.’
A school community is just as diverse and deserves the same approach. We know communities respond to different forms of communication. Some welcome email, push notifications, tweets and other electronic communications. Others need the yard conversation, a phone call or the printed newsletter. Try to think “Why this communication strategy, for this parent, at this time?”
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.
Keep learning visible
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 staffroom to the community. Show parents what you and your staff are learning, how you 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 how to make our schools better for their children.
Reach out, be accessible and show them you are a learner.