Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Telling our School's Story

This book was on my summer reading list.

It was one of the easiest reads of the, entertaining....kinda like those trashy tabloid magazines, but I came out feeling a whole lot smarter and confident.

Like this:

(In real life, this sign is about 20 feet overhead and huge)

Basically, the message of the book is this;  if you don't tell the story of your school, other people will, and they more than likely will not get it right. So, give people something to talk about. Something fabulous that shows your school in a positive light.

When I took on the role of acting vice-principal in the school, I inherited the school's Facebook page. The page was still in its infancy when it was bequeathed to me, and not being much a "Facebooker", I really didn't know how to unleash its potential.

I had heard rumblings from staff that the community sometimes seemed disengaged and disconnected from the school, and so I knew that something needed to change. I decided to jump in with both feet this year, and use social media to spread our story.

We have a brand-new green screen wall at our school so I began by using it with staff, to create fun back-to-school pictures and a video.

Then some of the classes decided to introduce themselves to parents and made their own videos.

Now others want to begin producing post-worthy products.

The result?

Well, we have about a 300% increase in the number of people who visit our page.

Kids, parents, people on the street (and educators from other schools!!) are now talking about our school. And they are saying great things.

Do you need to be a tech whiz to do this?  Nope.  I have now mastered iMovie basics (thanks Google, for all the help when I've gotten stuck!)  In about 10 minutes (maybe even less!) I can produce a movie that kids can't wait to have their parents look at online.

If you are looking for a "getting started" guide to social media, the Ontario Principal's Council has a streamed online course archive that is available here: OPC: Using Social Media to Tell Your School's Story

And even better, I plan to get some students trained very soon to take over the media production tasks so it won't take any more of my time than it will take to preview it before publishing.

Want to see some more examples of what we have posted this year? Visit our Little Current Public School Facebook page.

Our Lego wall stop-motion animation (to generate interest in visiting our Makerspace at the school Open House event).

You do need to know your audience and their social media habits, and where I live, Twitter is more of a novelty,  mostly used by local educators. Instagram use is on the rise, so that may be the next avenue.

I can't wait to see what all the other schools are up to! Tell your school's story, it's easy. For real.

Monday, September 5, 2016

5 Simple Steps to Building School Relationships?

Want to get to know me better?  Here are 3 things about me:

  • This summer I participated in a sporting event for 28 hours straight.
  • This summer I caught an 18 lb pike.
  • I can roll a kayak at least 6 different ways.

As I head into my second year in the role of Vice Principal, I find myself reflecting on the role of relationships in schools.  Everyone talks about how key relationships are, and as a classroom teacher, building relationships was something I spent a lot of time on.  In the administrative role, I now fully realize just how essential they really are.

5 Simple Steps?

Not really.

Relationships are something that need to be fostered, and require time and sustained effort.

But on the other hand, it's not really rocket science.
  1. Make it a priority. Yes, there are a million things to do at the beginning of the year, but is there anything more important than relationships?
  2. Make it fun. No one wants to write an essay telling all about themselves or their summer. No one.
  3. Make an ongoing effort.  Don't just do one activity and then leave it for the rest of the year. Ogres People are like onions, and it takes a while to get through all the layers to really know them. (Thanks to Shrek for the inspiration on that one)
  4. Make it genuine.  Really listen and pay attention as you learn about others.  If someone tells you about their renewed love for fishing over the summer, be sure to ask them in October if they are planning to do any ice fishing in the upcoming winter.
  5. Make it a learning opportunity.  Have staff tell something about themselves via Twitter, or in an iMovie trailer, on a Padlet, on a shared Google Doc...the possibilities can be endless.

The beginning of a school year was always been my favourite part of the year as a classroom teacher.  I loved coming up with a wide variety of fun, getting-to-know-you activities, and I always made sure that the time in class was spent in those early weeks really getting to know my students, and to let them learn about me.

Some of my favourites have been:

  • toilet paper roll game (Pass the roll around the circle and have the students take as many pieces as they wish.  After, have them share 1 item about themselves for each square that they took - the looks on the faces of those who wound it around their hands several times is always priceless)
  • Starburst game (Similar to TP roll game, but limit it to 1 or 2 candies and then display a list for each colour: pink= something about your family, orange= something you did this summer, red= fave sport/hobby etc)
  • Name Games (there are so many variations on this, but I loved the one where I got to be Perfect Ms. Pennie)
  • Me Bags.  I always share a box or bag of items about myself on the first day of school, then give them a week to collect and share their own items.  I have done this every year for 17 years, from Kindergarten to Grade 8, and even when I had repeat classes of students, they begged to be able to do it again.  For 3 years in a row. For real.
  • I Like game (when an item applies to the students, they change seats with others who also fit the category: "I like....people who have a dog".  The game ends with "I like....everybody", with everyone scrambling for a new seat

Last September was my first start-up in an administrative role, and I found that I really missed those fun, silly, get to know you games.

Here are some more getting-to-know-you games that will work with students AND staff of all ages.

  • Back-to-school Bingo. Fill a line or fill the whole card.  Click the link to go to the Google Doc and make a copy you can edit.
  • Paper airplanes.  Each person writes 3 unique things about themselves on a sheet of paper and makes an airplane. Fly the airplanes and grab someone else's.  See if you can find the airplanes owner.
  • Two truths and a lie.  Each person writes 2 truths and a lie on an index card.  Collect and redistribute the cards, then have everyone try to find the card's owner.  Once they do, have them try to figure out which item is the lie.  
As I mentally prepare myself for heading back to school tomorrow, I am excited about the relationships that I have and will have with our staff for the 2016-2017 school year. 

Enjoy the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, and the thrill of renewing and beginning relationships in your schools.

Just a note: One of the items about me at the top of this post is a lie.  Can you guess which one?