Telling the Story of Your School

Storytelling. It's a big idea. The theme of the 2017 Prizmah Conference was "The Power of Story" because stories are meaningful. Stories captivate our attention, play to our emotions. Stories are how we understand ourselves; the characters, the settings, the twists of plot to which we are connected. As educators, storytelling is part of our work. In real life, stories unfold over time. Through experience, we learn a bit more, integrate new information, and view through new eyes as we ourselves, grow and change. Who tells the story of your school? We might think it's the marketing person whose main job is telling the school's story. Perhaps we add director of admissions, head of school and other leadership.  The truth is that there is no one "official" story of a school.  EVERYONE contributes to the mosaic. Each teacher, parent, student, former parent, board member and even members of the larger community are storytellers when asked (or not asked) about your school.  I'll give you an example of someone who seems unconnected to the school but has plenty to say. Every time I get my teeth cleaned, my dental hygienist mentions my local Jewish day school. She is not a current or former parent. However, she has plenty to say about how much she dislikes the school based on the dual curriculum, which she believes detracts from the academic learning of the students in English and secular subjects. I mention this example because, while it's just one person, I think it's important to consider. In her work as a dental hygienist, she talks to many people each day (who, while getting their teeth cleaned, are a captive audience for her opinions). How many people incorporate her views into their ongoing story as they consider whether to send their child to, keep their child in or donate money to this school? Tell Your Story! This is why it's so important to be constantly and proactively telling YOUR story. You could try to educate those you meet who have negative (and incorrect) ideas to share, but it's not necessary. As long as you are clearly sharing the positives- not once or twice, not only in certain venues, but consistently, over time, using all of the tools and channels available to you- your story will prevail. In the example of the dental hygienist, there is plenty of research and support for the benefits of dual-language education. Knowing there are people who believe that dual-language programs impact students negatively, a proactive approach would be to spend time curating and sharing the best articles in support of bilingual education. That's YOUR story. Use Social Media Blogs and social media offer the opportunity to share those bits and pieces of your story over time, to create a beautiful mosaic that leaves people feeling positive and wanting more. In the last few years, the worry over social media has largely subsided, and it is the rare school who does not use it. How can social media best be utilized to tell the story? Are there certain strategies schools should employ? Should we "allow" students to use the tools (allow in quotes because they are using it anyway!)? What are your questions, fears, hopes for social media? How do blogs fit or not fit into your school's storytelling architecture? This post is the introduction to a series I plan to share on using social media and blogs to empower the entire school community to tell your story. Stay tuned!