Sunday, May 19, 2013

Useful Communication Tools for Every School Principal
by Mike Nitzel, Principal
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School
Rock Island-Milan (IL) School District

An essential component to building relationships is communication.  If your stakeholders are to feel a part of what you are trying to accomplish, they first must be informed about what you intend to accomplish.  Providing information is the first step towards establishing two-way communication which is vital to the success of your school.  Here are some things I do to maintain communication with my stakeholders.  You undoubtedly have other ideas and I would love to hear about them through your comments.

1)      Daily Update to Staff:  Each day I put out a Daily Update to my staff.  It’s a kind of newsletter in which I provide them an updated calendar for the current and upcoming weeks, let them know who is out of the building for the day, and provide them with any additional information that they need to know—upcoming deadlines, etc.  I also provide them with a “Teaching Tip/Resource of the Day” and each week I provide them with an inspirational quote of the week.  At the bottom of the Update our school and district mission statements will always be found.

2)      The Bulldog Bugle: This twice monthly newsletter goes home to our families and any other interested party who wants one.  It contains calendars and schedules of upcoming events and other informational articles of interest.  But perhaps most importantly, there is a “Teaching and Learning” corner, a “Parent Involvement Corner” and  Common Core State Standards  Corner” found in every newsletter. 

3)      Email Hotline: Our school has an email hotline which I use to remind parents about upcoming events or to report on things that have happened at school such as safety drills. 

4)      Proactive Phone Calling:  This is one of the most useful tools I have used.   Each week I call at least three families at random (our secretary blind chooses the families for me to call) and I ask them three questions: 1) Is there anything positive you would like to share about what is happening at Thomas Jefferson School?; 2) Is there anything you think we can improve on at Thomas Jefferson School?; and 3) Is there anything you would like to share about Thomas Jefferson School that we haven’t talked about.   Seeking out the input of your families outside of regular school surveys communicates to them in a very real way that you care about what they have to say and it gives them a very real voice in what’s happening in your school. 

5)      Facebook: We have used Facebook in the past and some schools use it far more effectively than we do.  It can be an important two way communication tool, but it can be fraught with pitfalls as well.  Be careful in how it’s used.

6)      Twitter: This is an excellent tool to keep a wider audience informed about what is happening in your school, both in and out of the classroom.  For examples of how I use Twitter, check out my Twitter feed using my handle @MikeNitzel.  Some schools have set up their own Twitter accounts as have some school districts, including mine @R_I_Schools. 

7)      School Website:  This is certainly not a new concept and it needs little explanation here.  One caveat about school websites—KEEP THEM CURRENT!  It is very disappointing to go to a school website looking for information and finding that the last post is three months old. 

8)      Suggestion Box: Some schools use these very effectively for anonymous feedback.  One warning though—have a thick skin and be prepared to read things that are surprising as well as a bit disappointing.  That being said, you can get some good feedback and ideas from using one. 

These are just a few ideas I have regarding communication within your school and with a larger audience.  I’m sure you have many more and again, I’d invite you to comment and share!  Remember, good communication is a starting point to good stakeholder involvement in your school, something that will only make your school better!   Thank you for taking time to read my thoughts on school communication.  It is most appreciated! 

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