School Public Relations: Do You See It?

Educators and parents working together magnifies student success and your school's PR

school public relations

Recently I met our 8-year-old daughter’s teacher for the typical parent-teacher conference. My daughter enjoys this teacher and her class. As the teacher shared insights into my daughter’s school performance, I appreciated her pleasant and professional approach. What impressed me most was how the teacher pointed out something that surprised her about some of our daughter’s test scores. We discussed it and both made notes to check in on the matter at a later date. 

Two weeks following the conference, my daughter brought home a graded assignment with a “parent signature required” stamp at the top. Immediately, I knew why the teacher had requested my signature. This homework allowed me to see something the teacher noticed per our conference. In the hectic every day, I may have missed it had the teacher not respectfully called my attention to it. As I signed my name on the page, I could picture the teacher saying, “Take a look at her progress. Do you see it? Let me know you see it.” 

Sitting at my kitchen table that day, I felt excited. I felt a part of the process. I feel like I’m helping my daughter succeed in her education. 

In this fast-moving world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by duty and possibility. As a school administrator entrusted with the education of youth and fostering a positive school brand to current and potential families, your job is not easy. Take comfort in the reality that powerful components for your school’s success already exist in your school—the valuable relationship of teachers and parents. 

Healthy Parent-Teacher Relationships

Your teachers are the boots on the ground every day. The relationship between them and parents is at the core of your school public relations. Do you see it? 

Here are five ingredients to healthy parent-teacher relationships and how they relate to public relations for schools.

1. PR-friendly teachers establish communication lines. 

From the moment children enroll in your school, communication between parents and teachers arguably becomes the most important form of school communication. Classrooms full of children with different backgrounds all deserve to be honored and respected. E-mail addresses, other contact information, and understanding the parent’s communication preferences are helpful in establishing links between school and home. Faculty and staff are the ones to bridge the gap between families—the home base for their students. This connection establishes an expectation that all have a role to play in the student’s education.

2. PR-friendly teachers set and meet clear expectations. 

When people have an accurate idea of and purpose for the road ahead, the value of the journey is apparent. As educators, you benefit from parents who catch your vision. The more engagement you can get, the better. According to Meredith Bleak, a second-grade teacher in Arizona, “Parents, teachers, and staff must all adopt the idea that every child is their child and work together to help them in the best way possible.” 

All children are at the school to increase their quality of life, and as their cheerleaders, we need to be united in the “why” of their education. A few years ago, Megan Hall, 2013 Minnesota teacher of the year, gave a Ted Talk focused on the parent-teacher relationship. She points out that every day she tries to remember that the students she teaches are “the meaning of someone’s life.” You and your teachers set the tone with clear expectations and instructions. As you do so, you improve your school public relations as parents feel hopeful and engage in their student’s progress. 

3. PR-friendly teachers point out successes! 

Our 1st grader’s teacher recently emailed me to point out impressive progress our daughter had made. Though she has struggled with reading, in one test she showed significant progress. We’ve been changing up how we support her learning path as a 6-year-old. The teacher’s e-mail gratified our efforts at home! Her two-paragraph e-mail took a few minutes to write, if that. I was happy for my daughter but also appreciated the fact that the teacher is on my team, and together witnessed this moment and celebrated together!

4. PR-friendly teachers recognize and share concerns. 

Anyone with a garden will tell you that weeding is much easier when the unwelcome plants are small and their roots less grounded in the earth. Similarly, when concerns about a student’s behavior first arise, or when challenges to a student’s education are smaller, teachers who reach out early face fewer barriers as they work to address those issues. Parents and teachers can work together as gardners, to help a student by weeding out, or recognizing concerns, instead of letting them grow and take root. I’m not sure there is anything more frustrating than to be contacted with bad news about something that is too late to do anything about.

5. PR-friendly teachers recognize the long-lasting relationships with parents—for better or for worse. 

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, your school’s good image isn’t either. It’s built brick by brick, one positive experience after the other. As the first line of communication charged with the heavy mantle of the education of their assigned students, teachers’ interactions with students and parents either build or demolish your school’s reputation. Bleak points out, “If parents in a neighborhood hear good things about a teacher, they are likely to not only request that teacher for their child but also assume great things about the school. If a parent hears bad things about a teacher, then the opposite is true.”

Healthy School-Teacher Relationships 

Because teachers affect your school’s public relations through their individual roles, it is crucial to recognize your part in their success (and the school’s). Consider the three following ideas:  

1. PR-friendly schools create a respectful, healthy school environment. 

What surrounds the students at your school? Does your school environment foster learning, respect for self and others? ”The climate of a school and specifically a classroom,” Bleaks says, “has a lot to do with the relationship between parents and teachers. If the classroom and the school are clean and welcoming places, parents feel eased by leaving their children there all day. If the classroom is chaotic and the school grounds are dirty or the office staff is nasty, parents assume the worst and are hesitant to give teachers the benefit of the doubt.”

2. PR-friendly schools seek input. 

Did you know that a competition to design the doors of the St. John’s Baptistry in Florence is often credited for the beginning of the Renaissance? It’s amazing what a little public input can do! Teachers who ask for participation from students and their home-based educators can strike a powerful match creating synergy of various kinds. For example, sending home a survey asking how parents believe their children learn not only gives you a chance to learn more about your students, it also gives parents a chance to evaluate how well they understand their children’s strengths as well as identify areas for improvement. (See the sample surveys from Week 2 of your Marketing Your School Toolkit for examples).

Reaching out can take all kinds of forms. Imagine the possibilities for connection if a teacher sends a brief e-mail each day to one student. By the end of the month, twenty families roughly would have had at least one positive, individual connection. Such moments are crucial in curbing wildfires and building positive school public relations. Reach out!

3. PR-friendly schools send in reinforcements to teachers! 

Teachers are at the grass-root level of education in our country. Without them and their efforts each day, we would be in big trouble. Their duties are many; the pressure is high. As a school, if you want to strengthen your school’s public relations, you cannot do it without your teacher’s support. Help them. Support them. Encourage them. Train them. Most importantly, thank them. Their shoulders are the footstool of the future.  

Help your teachers recognize their power as public relations liaisons to your parents. Recognize staff that go the extra mile and support them in their efforts. The word will spread. Efforts at your school and the resulting success stories fall down like rain in the desert. You won’t always see it, but you will see its effects. 

As a school administrator, isn’t it comforting to know that in a school choice environment, you possess your most valuable tools for public relations already?

Public Relations for Schools

Emily Boyle, School Content Specialist