Changes in Communication
Communicating with stakeholders of a school is an integral part of a successful school year. When this school year began we were faced with extreme changes in meeting requirements. Although the changes were related to the physical environment and sanitation requirements, these policy changes had a direct effect on communication. In a school we can only be successful when communicating with the stakeholders on a regular basis. In this article I will address ways to improve communication between the school and three stakeholders, parents, teachers, and the students.
Communicating with Parents
At my elementary school, I was instructed to change numerous policies to address new needs created by Covid-19. My building had to undergo some new construction that was in conjunction with a policy change related to parents. Parents could no longer come into the building any further than the front lobby. This policy changed our communication with parents the most. The first thing that changed was our Meet the Teacher Night. In previous years, we would have time before the first day of school when the parents and children could come into the building, bring their supplies, see their classroom, and meet the teacher. Meet the Teacher Night was valuable to the parents in many ways.
The greatest complaint I received was that children would not know where their classroom is on the first day. Next, the parents were concerned about our smallest children not being able to carry all of their supplies on their own. All of these issues were addressed by changes we made. I discuss ways to address issues with ensuring parents are involved with the beginning of the year in a video entitled Parental Involvement During a Pandemic. It contains ideas for keeping parents involved throughout the school year, but we found that the day to day communication was really the biggest issue as the school year progressed.
Parents are stakeholders with whom we must have a constant, positive, and constant flow of communication. My teachers were instructed to use a classroom communication app called Remind. This app is also discussed in the above named video. This app provided us with quick and easy communication with parents, but education is much more personal than an email or text message and with parents being barred from coming into the building we had to find a way to communicate with these stakeholders is a more meaningful way. The Mississippi Department of Education put out some useful information called Mississippi Connects: Toolkit for Hosting a Virtual Workshop for Families. It is a quality resource for administrators and teachers to help train their parents.
Parents Need Training Too…
The best path we found was to train our parents on using Google Meet. I was concerned with internet security and communicating with individuals who were the parent or guardian of the child. All of our students are enrolled in a Google Classroom and when communicating face-to-face with parents we are accessing the parent through the Google Meet portion of our Google Suite.
We began our parent training with instructing them on accessing their child’s Google Classroom. Once the parent was successful in logging into Google Classroom, we moved forward with instructing them on joining a meeting through Google Meet. Having a face-to-face meeting with a school stakeholder is invaluable. Body language is a huge part of quality communication. Too many things can be lost in an email or text message when trying to communicate with any stakeholder; therefore, video conferencing has been adopted by our school and it has been very successful.
Again, some policies about our school environment caused some changes in communication with another stakeholder, teachers. With the new requirement that I could not have large gatherings of people, I could no longer have a traditional faculty meeting. This was something that had to be overcome quickly. We started off with meeting with individual grade levels. That is personal and intimate and necessary even. But collaboration is such an important part of education, that those meetings were not as good for the first team as they were for the last team. The first grade level would be presented with information, they would then give their feedback and ideas, and I would move on to the next grade level. Next, I would present the same information to that grade level, but I was also able to present the first grade level’s feedback and Ideas.This form of communication was most beneficial to the last grade level because I was able to present them with information from six previous meetings. Not only was this counter productive, it took all day. Therefore, we chose to have Google Meet faculty meetings. I would create an event on my Google Calendar and invite all of my teachers to the meeting. On faculty meeting day, the teachers joined the meeting from their classroom and I was able to meet with all of them at the same time.
Virtual Faculty Meetings
One valuable Google extension was the Google Meet Grid View. I suggest anyone who plans to meet with up to 45 people download this extension so you can see all of the people in the meeting. By having these types of meetings, I was able to see reactions and get feedback from these stakeholders in real time. Everyone had the benefit of the ideas presented and most of all it gave them practice with using Google Meet so they could use it with the parents.
Having a Google Meet faculty meeting was also beneficial for the teachers who were on quarantine for various reasons. We were finally able to be a team again. Teachers are the boots on the ground, they are the man on the street. Without constant communication with stakeholders like teachers, a school cannot be successful. And if the school is not successful, then the students are not successful.
Students are Stakeholders Too..
The final stakeholder I would like to discuss is the student. My school’s positive climate and culture depends on communication with the students. In my article, Elevating School Climate and Culture with Social Emotional Learning, I discuss all of the ways that I created a positive climate and culture in my school. Communication with student stakeholders is key. We ask our students to set goals and work toward them. We have to communicate with them on their progress and I encourage them to celebrate milestones along the way. The greatest need I had was the ability to celebrate the students who reached the goals that they set for themselves. In previous years we had a pep rally to do this.
Original Pep Rally Format
So our final hurdle was creating a virtual pep rally to celebrate. Our usual pep rally followed this format:
- All students were brought into the auditorium with music playing.
- I would discuss goal #1 and have the students who reached that goal stand so the crowd could cheer for them.
- Then we would play a game to celebrate their accomplishment.
- Next, I would discuss goal #2 and have the students who reached that goal stand so the crowd could cheer for them.
- Then we would play a game to celebrate their accomplishment.
- Third, I would discuss goal #3 and have the students who reached that goal stand so the crowd could cheer for them.
- We would play a final game to celebrate their accomplishment.
- Finally, we would have those students who reached all 3 goals stand and the crowd would dance and cheer for them.
- As the students left the auditorium, I would play music for them to walk out to.
Virtual Pep Rally Prep
We wanted our virtual pep rally to hit all of the high points that our regular pep rallies hit so well, but I could not have a crowd. This was accomplished with a lot of prep work. The first thing we had to do was choose games that could be played in a classroom that met the requirements for social distancing and sanitation. Next, I designated a game for one person in each classroom to play. We had a total of 3 games that were played all over the building. I visited each classroom and had one person play the game while I videoed them playing. Then, I went back to my office and created one final video for each game that included each participant, their time/score on the game, and team scores as they earned points.
On pep rally day, I created a Google Meet event on my calendar and invited all of the teachers. When it was time for the pep rally, I was ready with my costume, a video background that matched our yearly theme, and I had music playing on my computer as classes joined the meeting/pep rally. Once all of the classes had joined I started the pep rally the same way I had done it in previous years. The only difference was that the games were played via video presentation rather than in person.
As I talked to my students and asked them to cheer for their teammates, I could hear the cheering within the building. The excitement was palpable and the students had a great time. A virtual pep rally took a great amount of preparation, but it was completely worth every bit of effort. The feedback that I got back from both teachers and students was positive across the board. The students liked the fact that they could see, up close and personal, the games being played. A regular pep rally usually took about 30-45 minutes with student travel and settling into seats. This virtual experience took about 20 minutes and definitely hit all of the high points.
Communicating with stakeholders on the most personal level as possible should be our goal. Throughout the school year that may change forms, but as a teacher or an administrator, we know that the success of our school, and in turn our students, is dependent on all stakeholders having a positive and productive relationship. When we make communicating with all stakeholders a priority, we will have a positive climate and culture and ultimately a successful school year.