Like many districts around the state of Washington, my union is bargaining with district around salary schedule this summer. Probably comes as no surprise, but communicating with 800ish members about the progress of a bargain and what the bargain is has had a steep learning curve.
But, the chance to learn throughout the summer with this group of adults has helped me consider how communication can be better in the school year with students, parents and staff.
4 Things to Consider when Communicating*
Consider what you key messages are for a given time period and sit down to calendar out your messages. Is there a big unit test that will be critical for students to be prepared for in two months? Is there a Student LED Conference coming up that is mandatory for grades/communication/student planning? Is there an initiative in your building that you want staff to be consistently reflecting on? Then, you need to figure out what the right number of messages and consistency (1x a week, every other week…) to help your audience read, respond and act. Saying, oh yeah, I put that on a newsletter once and everyone should know isn’t enough if it truly matters. Well, let me tell you about all the things that someone “should know”.
Multiple Platforms are a Must.
Figure out where your audience is and meet them there. Guess what? They aren’t all in the same space. Just because a text message works for 75% of your class, still means there is 25% not connecting. Poll your different audiences to find out where they are most consistently present and engaged. For example, my union bargain has text messaging, phone trees, Facebook, email, and snail mail all sending the same message. Still, I’m sure we are missing part of our audience.
Didn’t I already Say That?
Very similar to Quantity Matters, you’re going to find yourself repeating ideas or statements. You can either fight it and get upset, or you can learn to be a bit zen about it. Text messages are missed; emails aren’t read. I lament the need to repeat myself to those who will commiserate and then I move on. Also, I’ve found that keeping a cheat sheet of common messages ready helps. I don’t have to consistently think of what to say and I know that I’m always sending the same message. Plus, how easy is it to copy and paste?
Images and Simple Language.
Our world is fast becoming, if not already, a visual world. Especially, if you’re trying to catch attention. What’s great is that we don’t all have to be visual design gurus (though if someone on staff is, ask them for help with school wide work) because there are apps and sites out there to help. My go to is Canva because Corelaborate work introduced it to me. I’ve also discovered to be sparse yet concrete in my language. Less Faulkner. More Hemingway. Actually there is a free platform called the Hemingway App that helps you eliminate unnecessary language or confusing language.
The last 2 things that I have found to be effective in communicating with staff, students and parents is to be an advocate and have the conversation. If there is a platform that will reach more of your audience then advocate within your building to gain that platform or something similar. While you’re asking, ask the people in your organization to consider what messages you want to be sending to students, staff and parents. How will we as a shared body of people support that message in our actions and words?
*This idea of narrowing to a short bulleted list with a brief explanation is a listicle. Consider how you might use a listicle in your content and curriculum.
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