Three Steps to Help You Steer Your School In This Whirlwind of Change
In this new world that is dawning, your school is once again making a first impression.
Parents are seeing you in a different light.
They're asking themselves,
Have they got this, or are they scrambling?
Will all the burden fall on me?
Is our school well organized, or in chaos?
Are they good with technology, or is their website obviously out of date?
What is their daily energy level - sleepy or vibrant?
Do they communicate well with us, or am I already searching for information?
Do I see visual examples of students being challenged, nurtured, and having fun?
Is this school adaptable and agile in times of change?
What are they proud of at this school?
Learning is suddenly very transparent. If the student is bored or frustrated, the parent knows.
If the schedule is disorganized, this is visible.
This is a threat for schools that stall under pressure and a huge opportunity for the rest.
Here are our first THREE, SIMPLE, yet most crucial PIECES OF ADVICE:
1. When it comes to managing staff , always OVER COMMUNICATE
All schools are vulnerable, and a share of the parents will indeed start looking for another school.
If you communicate early and well, keeping everyone updated on what's going on, both the little wins you are enjoying and the frustrations, then you will keep parent concerns at bay.
We're all looking to rally around a good cause right now.
BE THAT CAUSE!
So staff, parent, and student communication is paramount. Distance makes communication harder. Double or triple any communication efforts you made before. Daily staff emails and faculty stand-ups.
Make sure your team stays in touch with each other, way beyond what's necessary to get the job done. You want a buzz of back and forth; you want ideas and banter flowing, a lively exchange of questions and feedback.
The best work gets done when minds meld - when dedicated people let loose on the productive playground of collaboration.
✅ You want your staff and teachers to JAM TOGETHER.
✅ With remote teamwork, this doesn't happen naturally.
✅ Make it your responsibility to foster it.
✅ You're the creator of your culture.
⁍ Ask 10x more questions.
⁍ Encourage people to speak up.
⁍ Use all the channels since people communicate differently.
⁍ Show them you value it when they do it.
⁍ Celebrate them for the little wins. Coach them when you can.
⁍ Be consistent, clear, and predictable. Always explain what happened and what will happen when communicating, e.g., Last week we discussed X, this is Y, next week we will explore you Z.
You don't need to be a principal, director, or school leader to do this.
In the best teams, everyone owns over communication.
2. Go Virtual FAST
There's a small number of key decisions for going virtual.
Some of those decisions have to do with the processes, so how you're going to be orchestrating the learning experience, and the rest of the decisions have to do with the technology you're going to be using.
☑︎ Assess where you are in the process and what's missing
☑︎ Decide what tools you should use based on your unique situation
☑︎ Setup your weekly online schedule
☑︎ Collaborate with faculty and align on decisions
☑︎ Empower teachers to perform based on their skills
☑︎ Maintain an engaged community remotely
☑︎ Where necessary, schedule coursework and school packets pick-up on Monday and Tuesday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
☑︎ Where necessary, schedule daily drive-thru food distribution from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The single best guide out there has been compiled by google: https://teachfromhome.google/
3. A New Way to Grow ENROLLMENT
EVERYONE is looking at their phones now.
3.1 What can you share online?
✔︎ Photos of students’ workstations where appropriate
✔︎ Short video messages from teachers/staff
✔︎ Mental health tips for parents
✔︎ Daily home schedule recommendations
✔︎ Health, nutrition, and exercise recommendations
✔︎ A showcase of guest speakers (go ahead and invite them; they have a lot of free time!)
3.2 How do you adapt your enrollment marketing for virtual?
✔︎ Demonstrate your distance-learning experiences
✔︎ Increase social media posting and run ads
✔︎ Add a virtual tour to your website
✔︎ Add a calendar scheduler to your website so that prospective parents can schedule a Zoom call with you
✔︎ Increase the frequency of your email newsletters
✔︎ Add teacher profiles with 2-minute video previews of their online class (with parent permission)
✔︎ Add videos of deep learning discussions happening online
🚩 The best marketing is a real-time preview. Get parent permission to record classes; cut out a 1—2-minute video of a deep learning moment, and put it in a Facebook video ad.
Also, when your marketing plan is refreshed, update your web presence.
Parents are now thinking: is this school ready for distance learning? Is their website up-to-date?
I checked yesterday, but do they have new information up today?
3.3 Update your web presence and Google My Business
You need a chat or text module on your website.
You need a section with news and updates that you refresh daily.
3.4. The most important point, mentioned above, but worth repeating: you need a VIRTUAL TOUR on your website.
Having a virtual tour (or webinar) is essential because:
- Not every school website offers virtual tours, so having one makes you stand out online.
- Hosting a virtual tour develops authority and trust in your audience
- Virtual tours actively show the full picture of your school and distinguish you from others.
- Virtual tours build relationships; they give parents and students a feeling of being a familiar part of your school.
- Parents who live out of the area and are looking to move can “shop ahead.”
- Your content will never go to waste; videos, Q&As, short presentations can all be re-purposed into tons of smaller content pieces.
- A virtual tour adds excitement, emotion, and energy to the perception of your school.
- Seeing the layout makes students comfortable about what they can expect.
- Parents who don’t have the time to schedule a visit can see what you offer.
- A virtual tour is more engaging than a photo gallery.
- Virtual tours are perceived as high-quality, which is how you want your school to appear.
- Finally, it’s fun and powerful, and students love seeing it.
- It will inspire hope and build connections during the difficult time our nation is facing.
3.5 Finally, find new ways to create community in this distance learning environment.
A Facebook Group is a good start. But you can also try:
◆ Virtual assembly
◆ Virtual lunches and dinners
◆ Support parent-owned businesses
◆ Virtual coffee scheduling for parents
◆ Virtual playdate scheduling for young students
◆ Netflix Party screenings of educational movies
◆ Virtual book clubs
◆ E-sports competitions (e.g., in Minecraft)
◆ Virtual singalongs