In 2017, Justin Baeder, from Principal Center Radio, invited me as a guest on his show to talk to me about my book Messaging Matters: How to Inspire Teachers, Motivate Students, and Reach Communities.
Justin was gracious enough to allow me to repost the interview with my readers and listeners. This week I want to share that encore episode with you.
Why is messaging so important?
In every setting of school, amazing learning and moments are happening every day that not a lot of people know about. In the humility of our service as educators, we are often hesitant to brag about our schools. On a national scale, this has created a crisis with a political landscape that now assumes many schools are failing. Many school leaders have decided to take back the narrative.
When you are talking about policies and resources that schools need to matter, then your messaging matters on how elected officials and the general public perceive whether schools are worth supporting.
Instead of telling educators to “stay out of the newspaper,” we should do the opposite. How do we increase our messaging with students, teachers, and our communities? We must adopt new habits of looking for moments of celebration and then embedding practices to consistently share that out.
School leaders must be first in making a commitment to celebrating the positives so often that those moment drown out the negative ones:
You are the astronaut!
Messaging first begins with mindset. Just like you can only see one side of the moon from the surface of the earth, others can only see a limited perspective of your school. As a school leader, you often have a wider perspective of what’s happening in school because you have access to so many locations, classrooms, and conversations within the school. Since you can “see more of the moon,” you have a responsibility and a privilege of sharing out that perspective with the rest of the world.
7 Ways to Maximize Messaging
- Commit to a daily and weekly broadcast of amazing moments. As you walk through your school, look for moments to celebrate. Capture these moments on your phone and then share them out. It’s that easy. But it begins with a mindset of looking for the positives that are outshining the negatives. Encourage teachers and students to adopt that mindset as well.
- Practice and schedule messaging so that you build momentum around those messages. Your students can take positive messaging further than anyone else. One year some of my students decided to begin a movement of kindness at our school. Their decision to share positive notes on a girls’ bathroom mirror, for instance, became a story our school shared on Facebook and was shared on TV news. Positivity is contagious when you encourage it.
- Be present and mindful when you are with students. Instead of just doing walkthroughs or observations by using a tech tool, look into the faces of students and teachers and identify what kind of learning is happening. “Being in the moment” means actually watching, listening, and feeling the relationships and learning around you. This mindset will help you connect with others, and you’ll find lots to celebrate.
- Include teachers and students in communicating what learning is taking place in school. No one understands better than students and teachers what learning is happening in classrooms. Whether you are bringing a team of teachers to board meetings or encouraging students to demonstrate what they’re learning, let people hear from the products of our educational environments— the students and teachers themselves.
- Give teachers permission to share out their best ideas. If you have a teacher with some best practices others can learn from, encourage them to share about it. Also, find your “techy-teacher”, the one who likes to blog, podcast or create videos, and invite him or her to share what they’re doing with others.
- Commit to a weekly newsletter. Whatever format you choose, reach out to parents and community members so they have an image-rich summary of awesome happenings. Give parents a positive context for your schools so that problems or conflicts are always in the context of positive conversations you’ve already initiated.
- Don’t be afraid to oversaturate your audience, parents or community with positive moments. People want to be a part of something they are proud of. And most people need to hear a message several times before it sticks in their minds. So duplicate information: if you share something in a newsletter, also place in your social media feeds or other mediums you use for messaging.
Let’s Wrap This Up
At the end of the day, we celebrate our schools because they deserve recognition for the great achievements, connections, and learning that make them a school community. Or another way to say it: you celebrate them because you love them.
Would you consider giving yourself permission to celebrate how much you love your school? I know you already do, but show that love by the commitment you will make to celebrated, highlight, and broadcast those student and teacher achievements with the rest of the world.
Principal Center Radio
Thanks to Justin Baeder for allowing me republish this podcast episode. You can check out Justin’s amazing resources for school leaders at PrincipalCenter.com.
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