Wednesday, July 6, 2011

School Community Relations

(Summary video created by Dr. Judy Horrocks)

My first course this summer focused on School Community Relations and was a great start to the semester!  Unlike most of the courses here at Lehigh (predominantly filled with overseas teachers), this course was an equal mix of US based teachers/administrators and international school educators.  This mix really allowed our group to have some great discussions about communication structures in schools today, and helped us to identify common strategies to help build effective public relations plans in our different settings.  Over the session, we had some great discussions and the following themes emerged as I begin to think about improving school communication next year.
  • Image is important - It has often been said, but perception is reality within schools and the image that stakeholders have of your school will affect the way they act and the choices they make.  Therefore it is important that school leaders understand the importance of public relations to ensure that the perception of their schools match the reality.
  • Relationships are key - As with most aspects of leadership, effective communication begins with effective relationships.  This is most important within the immediate school community, but it is also very important to establish links with outside organizations (newspapers, government agencies, local arts community, etc) that could play a significant role in your school's program or reputation.   
  • Communication must be two way in order to be effective - when building communication plans, it is important to ensure that feedback loops are present.  Furthermore, it is necessary that feedback is collected from various groups within the school community to try and get a clear picture of public perception.
  • Emotion plays a large role in communication - In schools, we are working with people, and emotion is always going to be part of difficult discussions.  As administrators, it is often useful to step away from a situation and determine the needs of the communities to determine future plans. There are many times when people may react negatively to change because of an emotional need (how will this affect my child, how will this affect my job, etc) rather than reacting to the change itself.  If we can first speak to the emotional concern, the follow up communication becomes much easier for everyone.
  • Social media needs to be included - Although there are still very few schools that have embraced social media in school communication plans, we had some great discussions about how these tools can be used to facilitate effective two way communication.  As schools develop their plans for communication in today's environment, it is extremely important that they incorporate social media in their efforts.  School's that are most effective using social networking tools have a clearly defined audience and purpose for the tools that they employ
Although I am sure that this is not an exhaustive list, I do feel like I have a much better understanding of the importance of public relations and how this affects schools today.  As always, I am looking forward to seeing how this will affect our practices at ACS and would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you handle public relations in your school or district.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back to School

I am back on campus at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania completing my second summer of courses working towards my doctorate in Educational Leadership.  Although it is going to be a busy summer, I am very excited to get back on campus and participate in some face to face learning after working through on-line courses for the past two semesters. 

This summer, I will be taking three courses including School Community Relations, Curriculum in a Global Society and Managing and Leading Change.  My other main goal while I am on campus is to get final approval for my dissertation topic and find a chair for my committee. 
At this point, I am planning on looking at the effectiveness of professional development programs in international schools and am hoping to get support from the Faculty so that I can earnestly begin writing up my introduction and literature review sections.

As always, the summer is a time for rejuvenation and I know that I left my courses last summer energized and ready for a great year.  Thankfully, there is a great group of educators each year on campus, and I always enjoy the opportunity to discuss and analyze our practices.  I am sure that the collaborative nature of the courses here at Lehigh will once again push me to examine my own work and help me to become a more effective principal next year at ACS!