As parents of fourteen-year-old twins, my wife and I have spent this summer buried in communications from their high school. Our daughter, Grace, is a volleyball player, sings in choir, and is part of the high school coalition teen council. Our son, Gavin, is in the marching band and involved in the robotics club. We have downloaded two apps, read dozens of emails, searched the district website, and been directed to Schoology for information. Recently, we noticed that Grace’s volleyball practice times were different from the website to the app. Her coach told us that the most up-to-date information would be on the app, as the website was not regularly updated. A quick glance at a district Facebook group shows communication confusion; parents are frequently asking for correct times and dates for activities.
As an educator, this experience got me thinking about how schools communicate with families. As the 2023-2024 school year gets underway, schools nationwide are gearing up to welcome students back. It’s a busy and hectic time! In all of the hustle and bustle, one critical aspect that schools often overlook amid these furious preparations is an efficient and well-organized communication plan. Especially in the digital age, families, students, and staff rely on clear, consistent, and timely communication to stay informed about events, expectations, and crucial updates. Schools must adopt a comprehensive communication plan that covers all bases and ensures that information reaches its intended recipients.
In this article, we’ll explore the various components of a successful school communication plan, organized by the methods commonly employed by schools.
- Paper/Email: Bridging Tradition with Modern Convenience
Despite the advent of digital communication, the tried-and-true approaches of paper and email remain staples in school communication plans. Families appreciate tangible documents they can keep on hand, and emails provide a quick way to disseminate information to a broad audience. Administrators must ensure that the paper/email communications are not only informative but also include references to other communication methods. This way, any updates or changes can be effectively communicated, avoiding confusion or missed information. Front office staff should have a clear understanding of the content sent home, enabling them to address inquiries effectively.
- Website: The Modern Flyer That Never Gets Lost
Websites have become the digital counterparts of traditional paper flyers. They offer a centralized hub for all school-related information, accessible to the entire community. However, maintaining an up-to-date and user-friendly website is crucial. The communication audit should include regularly checking links, updating content, and ensuring that the website is easily accessible from the district or building landing page. A well-maintained website eliminates the frustration of searching for information and provides an archive of past communications for reference.
- Learning Management System (LMS): Personalized Engagement
Learning Management Systems (LMS) have revolutionized how educators share information with students and families. LMS platforms allow for individualized communication, whether it’s delivering daily lesson plans, sending reminders, or providing personalized feedback. However, schools must consider accessibility challenges. Families often need guidance on navigating these platforms, especially password-protected ones. Schools should offer support and resources to help parents and caregivers make the most of these powerful tools.
- Apps: Information at Your Fingertips
In the digital era, smartphone apps have emerged as powerful tools for delivering information directly to stakeholders’ devices. Apps ensure a continuous flow of updates and can be customized for specific groups or individuals. However, schools need to address potential pitfalls associated with app usage. Parents and students must be encouraged to download and use the designated app for consistent communication. A single app used consistently across the school/district ensures families don’t have to juggle multiple platforms to access essential information.
5 Key Aspects of a School Communication Plan
Regardless of the mediums used, there are qualities that should be observable in any school communication plan. Here are what I consider to be the five crucial aspects of a comprehensive communication plan:
- Consistency: Regardless of the communication method, consistency is key. All methods should convey the same information to prevent confusion.
- Clarity: Messages should be concise, clear, and devoid of jargon. A well-informed community understands the message.
- Accessibility: Information should be accessible to everyone, including parents and caregivers with varying technological expertise.
- Regular Updates: All communication methods must be kept up to date. Outdated information can lead to misinformation.
- Support and Training: Schools should offer support and training for families and staff to ensure they can effectively navigate the chosen communication platforms.
Navigating the Communication Landscape
I can’t stress enough the importance of a robust and well-organized school communication plan. By integrating paper/email, websites, learning management systems, and apps into a cohesive strategy, schools can bridge the gap between tradition and technology, delivering information effectively to all stakeholders. A successful communication plan not only keeps families and students informed, but also fosters a sense of community and partnership between schools and families. Through consistent, clear, and accessible communication, schools can navigate the communication landscape with confidence and provide an optimal learning experience for all.
Todd Bloch is a science teacher at Warren Woods Public Schools and Past-President of the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators. He currently serves on the AMLE Board of Trustees. Connect with Todd on Twitter @blocht574.