Yesterday John Wink hosted a Twitter challenge called #LoveMySchoolDay where he invited educators across the country and around the world to celebrate their schools and share out moments, ideas, photos, etc. of why they love their schools.
In many ways, educators have lost the battle of public relations when it comes to our schools. Part of the blame rests with the insatiable appetite of American media outlets for negative stories about schools. In Rick DuFour’s In Praise of American Educators, he catalogs the relentless assault on public schools by media outlets that portray schools as havens of failure and low expectations.
At the same time, part of the responsibility for what others think about our schools rests with us, the educators who are responsible for them. Yes, failing schools exist. But thousands of thriving, safe, and productive schools serve students everyday too. The problem is that so many of those wonderful moments are never shared beyond the walls of our schools.
Although any school or organization has its weaknesses, the assumption that most are failing is not only false, it is also a dangerous one. When our community members lose trust in the integrity and products of our schools, we are fighting an uphill battle in caring for their children.
The good news is that we don’t have to sit back and let others determine the opinions about our schools. First of all, when we are making strong decisions and developing best practices, we set the tone for the kinds of schools we want to brag about. Second, with the growth of social media, we have the capacity to consistently showcase the amazing moments we see in our school everyday. Like never before in history, each of us has the capability of bolstering confidence in the teachers, students, lessons, activities and outcomes we have the privilege of observing.
These thoughts have motivated me to this past year in working on my next book: Messaging Matters. In the next couple of months, you’ll hear more about that, but today I want to give some practical examples of how to brag on your school.
Cool Cat Teacher’s 10-Minute Teacher
This week Vicki Davis interviewed me on her podcast, 10-Minute Teacher, about the Movement of Kindness our students have embraced this school year. (You can see a previous post for all the details.) Here’s a copy of that interview, if you’d like to hear it:
After sharing our story, Vicki asked me to explain how other educators can encourage this kind of movement among their school community.
6 Takeaways from our Wall of Kindness
I shared six takeaways with Vicki that anyone can use to consistently share the positive messages coming from their schools. Here they are:
1. Carry an iPhone or Camera To Capture Moments
Assuming your students and parents have authorized sharing images of students per FERPA guidelines, you should be capturing and sharing out positive moments everyday from your school. Snap photos or take short videos, and then email them, post them, Tweet them, or whatever it takes to have others see and celebrate great moments. Just two days ago, we shared out four congratulations emails on teams or individuals who recently won awards or recognitions for Drama, NHS, FFA, and Choir. All of this, and it was just Monday when these were announced!
2. Increase Your Social Media Shares
If you district allowing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, then spread the news. These social media outlets are free publicity for your school. And your tech-savvy parents (which more and more of them are), will be thrilled to see what’s happening at school, and they will often share it out to their friends.
3. Boost A Post For More Exposure
This past semester we decided to spend $5 and boost out a post via Facebook on the wall of kindness our students started. As a result, that single post had more than 65,000 impressions. Sometimes it’s worth sharing out great moments with audiences beyond your own school community.
4. Share Out Weekly Summaries of Great Happenings
For the past four years, we have shared out a weekly newsletter with our parents. Every week they receive highlights, photos and summaries of the past week in review. Celebrating these great moments keeps everyone informed and encourages a momentum of consistent positivity.
5. Use Media Relationships to Promote School
Make friends with your media outlets. Our local newspaper editor is Cc’d on every email I send to teachers congratulating a student or program on success. Once she told me that summers are her slowest time of year because school is out and those posts are on vacation as well. The same applies with TV or radio stations. Send them a heads up on great events and let them come to your school to share out the good news.
6. Push Out Press Releases Beyond Your Own Community
Your local news and community sources need first-hand information, but sharing beyond your community brings outside attention that can be encouraging too. One way to do this is by taking advantage of bragging via other outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And don’t be afraid to share posts via blogs or podcasts. Any time you can brag on your students and schools only adds to the positive environment you want to cultivate for strong learning and culture.
Let’s Wrap This Up
As I took part in John Wink’s call to action, I decided to brag on my students and school throughout the day with posts via Twitter. Whether it is watching awesome teachers or seeing amazing students learning, competing, producing, or sharing, here are a few highlights I bragged about:
- We have a senior who is a National Merit Commended Scholar.
- One of our seniors was named an Oklahoma Excellence Academic All-State.
- Another senior was recently accepted to West Point Military Academy.
- This year we were named an AP Honor Roll School District.
- Our teachers have beta-tested and designed a new remediation schedule.
- We have formed 1-to-1 Technology Pilot Group.
- Our teachers and students have promoted character growth with a Class Cup & with weekly Good Deeds Awards.
- I took three students and a teacher with me to our State Capitol for advocacy.
- We had All-Staters in Band, Cheer, Football, and Basketball & State Competition for Volleyball, Cheer, Choir, Drama & Debate.
- We’ve seen amazing leadership growth in STUCO, NHS, Junior Chamber, FCCLA, BPA, and FFA.
In addition to these individual moments, our teachers and students have been engaged everyday in the power of learning and growing in knowledge, understanding, and application. It really is an amazing time to be an educator, and it is such a pleasure to be a part of a school I love!
Now It’s Your Turn
We live in an interesting time in history. Never before have our schools faced the kind of skepticism that we see from the arena of politics to the publication of news stories. Yes, some schools have bad track records. But many others are doing amazing work serving students and communities. As school leaders and educators, we must be willing to be the chief communicators for sharing the good news coming from ours students and teachers.
What is one way today or this week that you can keep others engaged with good news from your school? Who are people in your building or organization who have strengths in social media or publishing who could be good resources for sharing out good news? What is one step you can take next to increase the communication coming out about your students?
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