At Possip, we observe how teachers, administrators, and district leaders are engaging and communicating with families. It’s been remarkable to watch schools and families set into action and adapt so quickly this past month. Without a doubt, the context for education is changing rapidly in our country and will be different on the other side of this. So it’s important to see what it looks like when schools are communicating successfully. You can visit the recording of our session here: https://possip.com/press-media-blog/possip-events-and-webinars/
The context for education is changing. The context of operating a school or a business is changing.
Likewise, the context of engaging and communicating with staff, students and parents has changed.
So that districts and schools are communicating successfully, you need to know what communication context you are operating within.
Model 1 -Centralized Communication
In Centralized Communication, there is one, and only one, central point of communication that makes decisions and owns family engagement.
Model 2 -Decentralized Communication
With Decentralized Communication, it’s unclear who owns communication. In the absence of centralized decisions, stakeholders (like Schools and teachers) respond independently, creating inconsistencies in an organization and many points of communication to manage.
Model 3: Hybrid Communication
Hybrid Communication that’s intentional has a clear structure for centralized communication and utilizes decentralized communication purposefully. Families come to expect a certain cadence of communication both from a central point of contact and from others on the frontlines, interacting with them day-to-day. Most importantly, families know how to communicate specific needs.
Model 4: Unintentional Hybrid Communication
Sometimes there is also Hybrid Communication unintentionally, as in model 4. This is where communication is happening both centrally and at the frontlines, but the structure for those on the frontlines needs clarity and intention.
There is an optimal communication context…a hybrid communication model that is intentional.
Intentional meaning, the most successful schools are communicating and have an ability to articulate:
- what they are doing
- why they are doing it
- when and how frequently they are doing
- how families should think about engagement with the school at this time
If you aren’t in a hybrid, intentional communication context, that is okay. It is just important to know which model you are operating within and to provide clarity for your team members.
If this is the case, focus on:
- communicating what you are doing and why
- setting expectations
- empowering and directing each member of your team
How Districts and Schools are Communicating Now
Let’s talk a bit more about approaches schools and districts taking in their communication today. Here are trends we’re noticing:
There are Personal touchpoints – Schools are trying to reach 100% of families. They’re asking families to update contact information. Teachers are calling families daily or weekly. Communication is personal and allows for two-way feedback.
Two-way feedback is really important. In a rapidly changing social situation, families need to routinely update educators about health, food or academic needs for their students.
Schools are maximizing the use of tools and streamlining methods of communication and resource sharing. At Possip, we think it’s an opportunity to understand and get in front of the needs of any part of your organization – be it parents, students, teachers or staff.
Communication is routine. It helps if parents know what to expect, and where to get information from. How and when will they hear from the school each day? This is a time when parents appreciate consistency and structure.
AND frequent COMMUNICATION – One of our partner schools intentionally told parents that the school will be OVERCommunicating in the coming weeks.
It’s best if the information is digestible – Our team at Possip has discussed how we’re personally consuming information about the current world situation. We’ve observed that people are taking in a ton of ever-adapting information and prefer to get this information quickly and succinctly. When communicating with families – short, clear messages that are easy to absorb may help.
Finally, an effective approach is multi-modal. Hybrid and intentional! The most successful communicators in this space and time are using multiple methods. They keep their school
What Schools and Districts are Communicating to Parents about:
First and foremost, schools are asking families about needs. We at Possip talked about how it was like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – basic universal needs before happiness – and so we changed the first question of the pulse check. Now we help schools ask parents: “Did we meet your child’s needs this week.” We’ve definitely seen the conversation evolve as needs have evolved and schools have continued moving through different stages of serving students and families with urgency.
Schools are talking to parents about food distribution times and locations, or when to pick up online learning materials. It is helpful to ask parents about challenges related to these logistics, like transportation and health, as well as real-time reactions to operational changes, like new schedules and teacher check-ins.
Transiting to online learning applications and effective communication between teachers and families is certainly top-of-mind. Schools around the country are in different phases of online learning.
Some schools are gathering information from families to prepare for online learning, some are distributing packets, computers, etc… and some are in full swing and starting to check-in with parents about how the experience is going.
Finally, Schools are communicating using many communication methods to point families to centralized places for updates from the school, information like schedules, and links to lessons and assignments.
This March of 2020 has been unexpectedly full of change. Just to speak to our experience – the first week of March, Possip helped schools quickly check-in with local parents after the tornado hit here in Nashville. Days later, we immediately pivoted to helping schools around the country message parents quickly as everything closed in response to the spread of coronavirus. Through Possip, schools are asking parents what they need. Our new question asks, “Did our school meet your child’s needs this week?”
When schools are communicating, here’s what parents are saying they in response:
- Help with passwords and logging onto learning platforms
- Clear directions and deadlines that are easy to keep track of
- Video conferences between teachers and classmates and virtual lessons
- Information on plans for graduation, prom, returning to school and summer break
- Information about Food, supplies, internet and health testing
- Advice on adjusting to homeschooling and clear expectations for their student’s education
It’s a lot to take in. Parents do appreciate the work you are doing! Possip is here for you and want to help your school and district communicate the best it can for your community! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.