Doing well in school, more often than not, doesn’t come easy. Most times, it requires an added measure and even sometimes an enormous amount of effort. Week to week, students in your school or district attend class, participate in discussions, work on homework, and complete various projects. In general, students seek to accomplish what their teachers expect of them. Similarly, teachers work to fulfill their responsibilities and duties.
Time after time, whether large or small, efforts are followed by success. So, when do such successes deserve a momentary pause of recognition?
In 2009, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn conducted a literary and anthropological experiment now known as the Significant Objects project. In it, they demonstrated that the value of any object is directly connected to a narrative and is measurable. In short, they showed that most definitely, stories add value.
History is full of real-life examples where stories have added value to objects or situations. Newsies, the Broadway musical, is a classic production based on the real-life challenges young people faced in the big cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many young boys and girls in the late 1800s stood on the corner blocks of big cities like New York, shouting the day’s headlines to work out a meager living. It took a daily effort, selling papers, capturing the moment to ultimately get what they needed to survive. After all, news today is history tomorrow. That’s still true today, isn’t it?
As a school administrator, how do you view your role as a school leader? Is it comparable, in part, to a newsboy or newsgirl trying to get your community’s attention about what’s going on at your school?
As a school administrator, one of your roles includes capturing and recognizing noteworthy moments. Considering the size of your student body, this may feel quite daunting. Sometimes you’ll want to share the successes and recognize a specific student; other times, you’ll want to acknowledge a group of students. It’s worth noting that a school that takes the time to recognize individual noteworthy efforts sends a strong message to its school community that the individual matters. It’s not all about educating the masses, but each student.
In this blog, we will consider various ways you can share your school’s success, thereby adding value to your school.
Let your community know about your school’s successes
These days, letting your community know about the great things happening on your school campus is not merely a nice-to-do; it’s a necessity. Your school’s stories, the ones you tell and the ones you don’t, establish your school brand and reputation. It is directly connected to how successfully your school naturally attracts new students as well as how successfully you maintain your current student population. Your school brand and the stories you share about your school is at the heart of your school marketing effort. Outside sources will always have something to say about your school, positive and negative, so, be sure you are in the ring. Share your school’s successes through stories and other means. Here are a few questions to consider.
Do your students talk to their families about school news and events?
How well are your students’ families getting the message at home? How would you rate your school’s connection to the homes of your students? Parents are more likely to engage with the school when their child acts as a school ambassador. What motivates your students to share news from school?
What success stories have been recently featured in your school newsletter or school website? Consider a feature specifically for recognition on either platform. Gathering and sharing personal testimonials from students, staff, and parents about your school community has a lot of potential. If someone has had a positive experience at your school, consider inviting them to share it in your school newsletter or on your school website.
There are many successes on your campus. As you read this, you are probably thinking of a number of student, volunteer, or staff successes deserving of recognition. Perhaps your hockey team won a tournament or your AP Biology classes just returned from a road trip to the coast or an island nearby. Start brainstorming and make a list right away. You’re on a roll!
Would your school’s parent organization consider helping the school with a student-of-the-month program?
Regularly recognizing students is a fantastic way to add value to your school while, at the same time, help your students feel valued by your school. As a parent, my loyalty to a school deepens as I am an eyewitness to the big and small ways my child’s school recognizes my child’s successes as well as those of other individuals within the school community.
Sometimes schools might involve the PTO or other school community groups to help them run this program. Some schools may use hallway window boxes to post a group of individual student photos with get-to-know-you questions and answers that shed light on the student’s personality and interests. Other schools may feature students-of-the-month on the school’s news channel.
Who should you recognize and how should you do it?
Some schools may choose to select students based on merit and nominations from their school community. Or perhaps there is a suggestion box in the office to receive nominations. Maybe your school has a reading incentive program for young students or other academic milestones from which you can draw the recipients.
How you decide to do it is completely up to you. The important thing is to just do it. Recognition rewards might include a simple mention of the student or staff member over the school PA or in the school’s newsletter or website. Or perhaps you give a small material reward for the recognition. For example, students-of-the-month could receive a $5 gift card to a local store or business, with all nominees receiving a note of recognition and a pencil. Try holding regular assemblies parents can attend to see their children being recognized for tackling and conquering learning challenges. The possibilities are endless. Did this spark some ideas? Write them down and get started.
We recently ran across a school who was doing a great job of gathering stories from students, teachers, and parents by adding forms to their website, making it easy to submit success stories. They collect both written and video stories and each month they feature some success stories from alumni, students, and parents. They have managed to engage their community in an entertaining way and these stories and videos help them market themselves and their successes without the cost of ineffective advertising. North East ISD in San Antonio is doing exactly what we’ve been recommending to schools for a decade. Kudos to them. We recommend other schools should do the same!
What role does social media play in sharing your school’s successes?
Technology is great in so many ways. Sharing images as well as the printed word once took a lot more effort. Now it’s easy to get messages out quickly. Effectively using social media is a great way to drive current and prospective students and their families to your school website. Social4Schools has helpful suggestions for strengthening communication lines within your school community using technology.
Do your students’ families feel welcome on your campus?
Feeling welcome is a big deal in any industry, including the education industry. How welcoming is your school for your school community?
Finding ways to open your school to your school community is important. Doing so not only enriches the community but has the potential to build loyalty and connections among students, faculty, and parents. Parents and families will feel much more comfortable and welcome in a school they visit for positive encounters and activities. When your school or district offers various opportunities to open your school to the community throughout the school year, drawing in students and their families before, during, or after school, your school organically shares what is great about your school. There are so many ways you can do this. Write down your ideas.
Does your honor roll program inspire your students to aim higher?
Having a routine for recognizing good grades as well as citizenship is worth the effort. When students are personally recognized for their efforts, it helps them and their parents feel not only proud but happy to be at your school. Could your honor roll recognition be better? Do your students and school community know what it takes and feel inspired to qualify for the honor roll?
How else can you deliver the message?
The list is long when it comes to various ways you can communicate with your school community these days. You can share your school’s successes in person, via the internet or by more traditional methods like school newsletters or newspapers.
Just as doing well in school doesn’t usually come easy, neither does recognizing your school’s successes. It will take effort, forethought, and consistency. Is sharing your school’s successes worth the effort? We hope you see that it most definitely is. As students and other members of your school community overcome the challenges they face, whether it’s a math problem or a problem with bullies, taking an active role in sharing your school’s success stories and the characters in those stories will strengthen your school brand and your school in general. It’s imperative to make the time to share those moments with your school community.