Friday, October 23, 2015

6 Simple Ways Teachers Can Help Promote Their Schools

An African Kikuyu proverb states, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” Unfortunately, our schools have become battlegrounds over political issues. Politicians vow not to fund public schools until they provide a quality education, yet schools have to reduce the quality of their services as they receive inadequate funding each year.

In response, educators feel undervalued. Morale is damaged. School employees begin to feel down on their profession and their local school system. And ultimately it is the students who pay the price.

Positive promotion helps kids. Below are some simple suggestions for sending forth messages about all the good that is taking place in classrooms on a daily basis.

1. First, get the message out, and do it quickly. In this day and age when everyone carries a smart phone that has a still camera, a video camera, and multiple social media connections, news is instantaneous. A message that goes out first has the advantage in swaying public opinion.

There may have been a time when newsbytes needed to be routed up through the channels of communication to the building principal and then to the district office. Nowadays that is lost time and a lost advantage.

2. Second, start with the Parents. The best technique for a good public relations program is a successful classroom teaching experience. Connect with the parents. Returns calls and e-mails promptly. Above all, take time to make connections on positive issues. Make a point of calling each parent at least once each year to talk about something good his/her child has done.

3. Third, utilize your district’s messaging system. Maintain the relationships you are developing with your parents by keeping them informed and connected to what is happening in your classroom.

4. Fourth, connect through social media. The world is online. Facebook is now bigger than the largest country on earth. As of 2015, 1.39 billion people log into Facebook each month, and that is more than the entire population of China. Your kids, parents, and community are online. Post all the good work you are already doing.

5. Fifth, use the power of photography. Social media started with text messages of 140 to 160 characters. Yet, a picture is worth a thousand words. Now the new impetus in social media is to attach a visual image to any message to grab greater attention and make it more powerful.

6. Sixth, retweet and share. Think about the power afforded to a school system where 500 employees all share a Facebook post of something positive that is happening in school or retweet a positive message promoting your school. Imagine how exponentially the message could travel. And it is so simple. All a person has to do is recognize that something positive could help your school if more people knew about it. Then simply click on the Share link.

If something as trivial as a silly cat video can go viral, why can’t an important message about the good work of your school at least go out to your community?

Positive promotion helps a school system. And if it helps the school, ultimately it helps the kids. Let us all do our part to promote our individual schools and American education by extension.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Parents Know Better that American Schools are Strong

There is a paradox present in the public perceptions of the schools in the United States. For years I have seen this same result in the annual Gallup poll on American public K-12 education. A paraphrase of one question reads, “Overall, how satisfied are you with the quality of K-12 education in the U.S. today?”

In the latest poll (which is very similar to poll results for each of the last ten years), only 45 percent of those polled expressed some level of satisfaction with the quality of America’s public schools. The majority, or 54 percent, indicated dissatisfaction.

At the same time for each of the last 17 years, people were polled with a similar question, but one with a distinct difference. Parents were asked, “How satisfied are you with the quality of education your oldest child is receiving?”

Overwhelmingly, parents expressed satisfaction with the quality of the local school system their child is attending. A dominant 76 percent of parents said they were either completely satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the educational quality of their child’s K-12 school. Only 18 percent expressed dissatisfaction.

And these results were very similar to the results recorded fifteen years earlier in 2000 and with little deviation throughout the intervening years.

If this polling truly represents the length and breadth of our great nation, then the two numbers should be similar and not polar opposites. Gallup is among the best in the business. I trust their poll numbers. On a school-by-school basis, our American public is pleased with public school quality. The difference in the polling tells me there is a perception problem.

People know their local schools from first-hand experience. However, the only way the average person can know our nation’s schools is by what they read and hear from national news, politicians, and pundits.

Let us cut through the phony criticism. Americans like their schools. They regard the schools as providing quality education to their children.

This is an opportunity to celebrate and demonstrate our optimism for public schools. In business the customer is always right. For America’s schools, their customers support the work they are doing.