by Dr. Darrin Peppard
In today’s public schools we are “evaluated and graded” on test scores, perception, and the words of outside people. Is it fair? Of course not, but we have never been good at telling our own story! Here’s a shot of reality for you: if we don’t tell the stories of our schools, then someone else will. If you want to have control of that message then YOU have to do something about it. Rather than be judged by the work of your neighborhood keyboard warrior, let’s talk about some simple steps school leaders (that includes teachers) can take to be the author of their story.
The story of your school is ever evolving and is written further with every passing day. So why would you allow the tale to be based only on the past? Perhaps you have some amazing traditions, historical success in athletics or academics, or maybe you have a brand new building completely missing any form of legacy. It doesn’t matter if we are steeped in tradition or struggling to find who we are, telling the story of your school, building the brand if you will, increases the connections your kids and adults will feel with their school.
Nearly everyone is tuned in to their devices these days so leverage that and really push out the great things your school is doing. It really doesn’t matter if you are super proficient or a novice, you can use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to get those all important messages out to those who follow. Another great thing is, the more information you push out, the more followers you’ll gain. This is important for when you have really important stuff to get out there. Also, the more you push about kids the more interest you will gain. It doesn’t have to be just for big events either, it could be as simple as sharing when your high school athletes read to elementary students, like in the photo above.
Tip #1 – Facebook Live
I would imagine by now every school out there has a Facebook page. But were you aware of the power of the “Go Live” button? With a simple click you can broadcast live from your mobile device and bring your community into your classrooms or events. This is one I use often and our kids just love it! If you’ve ever seen a kid around a camera you know full well how kids get excited to be in the spotlight. An added bonus of going live is the increase in audience for your students. My district is focused on project based learning and authentic audiences for our students. Earlier this week I was live in two 2nd grade classrooms as students presented their “We Built a Zoo” projects. (Here is a link to West Grand School District #1-Jt’s Facebook page.) When I “Go Live,” I use my cell phone and a selfie stick (the one I have also is a tripod and has a Bluetooth remote). It works great and I get so many comments from parents and community members. For the zoo project, one mom wrote a thank you for live broadcast because she wasn’t able to get in that day to watch her son’s performance. Grandparents who don’t live in the community get to see their grandchildren! This is a lot of fun and a super great way to highlight your teachers and give them some big praise!
Tip #2 – Videocast
I call my videocast the #WeAreWestGrand talk show. It’s not really a talk show but it is a chance to sit down with teachers, students, administrators, etc to talk about their work. I have had students on the show to share their work in FFA, Cross Country, and two different projects from our middle school. One project, The Closet, is designed to be a share site for kids to bring in items of clothing, toys, etc for other students to have. Rather than donating to some charity outside of our community, kids have decided to set something up for their peers. Another project involved two students who wanted to have a vending machine in the middle school. Instead of just asking, they did the research into regulations about this type of thing. They were able to learn what needed to be in place and actually worked with a local vending company to identify appropriate beverages for the machine. After three presentations to district and school leaders, they were approved and the machine is in place. For me this wasn’t about the machine as much as it was about student voice and leadership. All the video casts go on YouTube (here is a link to our channel) as well as being shared on our Facebook Page, my Facebook feed, and on our website. The show is a huge success and takes very little effort to film. Again, I use the selfie stick and my cell phone, or my laptop with a USB video camera. Super easy, super successful.
Tip #3 – Blog
Yep, old school blogging. I have a blog for the district which I am in the process of re-purposing. Instead of being stuck on what to write I am going to be focusing on the Top 5 things I saw this week. I will make those a quick blog post, and will mirror them in my article in our local paper. Simple things make a big impact. As an example:
- Pee Wee wrestling – On Thursday West Grand hosted a pee wee wrestling tournament. It was a blast watching our youngest wrestlers work hard and compete. Even cooler, our older Mustangs out on the mat helping make the event a success!
- Sticking with wrestling, a 5th grade West Grand student won the State Championship in his weight class. They don’t separate by school size in these age brackets. Nope, Blake is simply the best heavyweight wrestler in Colorado for his age group! Just because we are small doesn’t mean we aren’t great!
- While on an S-CAP visit in Fleming CO, we arrived at the start of the day and the bus was just unloading. A little (and I mean LITTLE) girl walking from the bus looked up to see a large group of adults. As she watched us walk she said (in the sweetest voice) ‘”What THE????”
- Preparing to open an Early Childhood Center is not for the faint of heart. This is going to be a heavy lift, however, on Thursday our new director Rhonda Ilgner had her first look at the facility. Her eyes lit up each time she entered a new room! I know she is fired up and now, having seen her facility, the energy is really mounting! Truly awesome work…
Our Elementary hallway also houses the Kremmling Preschool. While visiting with a few of the teachers the other morning, a preschool student and her mom were walking to the class. Upon seeing one of our teachers, the little girl ran to her and hugged her leg with every ounce of energy she has in her. We need to make sure we never let our kids lose the love they have of school, learning, and of their teachers when they are young!
Recently I was watching Joe Sanfelippo’s video blog and he talked about the “Moments of Awe” in our schools. I think the most important thing I heard was we need to make sure people know about those moments. If you take even one of these three tips and use them, you can help make sure people know. You can be the author of your school’s story! Heck, add a hashtag to it – brand your school (another post for another time).
Want to hear more? Join me at the Jostens Renaissance conference this summer and come check out my breakout session on Being the Author of Your Story! I will talk about using not only social media but how the look of your school tells the story, branding your school, and other big ideas to ensure your community knows the awesome stuff your school does every day!