Doing More With Less

I was fortunate to recently be hired on a part time basis by MASSP (Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals) to facilitate the implementation of the 5D+ teacher evaluation model.  There are so many parts about the work that I’ve loved over the past month.

At the top of the list of things I’ve enjoyed is being able to teach again.  While I’ve always worked to stay a teacher at heart, the more opportunities and experiences to lead groups of educators, allows me to stay close to those roots.  Teaching a system that I truly believe in to rooms full of teachers, principals, and district officeimgres.jpg administrators, has been so rewarding.  To be able to listen to educators talk about teaching and learning and it’s impact on students, has been refreshing.  Our educators are more prepared than ever before to strategically support the needs of the students who walk through their doors each day.  They come with toolboxes full of instructional strategies and and understanding of the social-emotional needs of each student.

However, there was been one trend that stood out in many rooms all over the state…and it’s not a good one.  A theme that continues to come up is that educators feel more stretched than ever before.  Within their school district, building, and individually, people have been asked to take on numerous roles.  In some instances, it is an administrative team that has been cut in half, despite serving a similar number of students.  Other times, it’s the curriculum director, who is also now the technology director, and just recently has added the role of assessment coordinator.  Despite the demanding and high profile role of student services director, in many districts, that person is now being asked to be a buildingimgres-1.jpg principal as well.  Teachers are not exempt from multiple roles either.  They are now supervising recess, being a PLC leader as well as a union rep, and leading curriculum development in districts where that role no longer exists.

That has led to educators doing more with less than ever before.

I realize that I haven’t found the cure to cancer here.  This is a dilemma that many are aware of and there is no simple fix.  But sometimes awareness of an issue is important to lay on the table because it could help start or continue the discussion. Educator burn-out is real and we simply can’t allow our finest to be overwhelmed by what their job has turned into.  To my fellow educators, I get it.  I know how hard it can be and I see all the extras you are putting in for your students.  Don’t stop.  Those students, parents, and/or teachers need you more than ever.  You have been called to this profession and are exactly where you need to be.  I encourage you to find others within your school, your district, and your inner circle, to be your support during the most challenging times.  Get to the point of self-awareness so you know when to lean on colleagues, share with a spouse, or take needed time away from the daily grind.images.jpgBecause regardless of all those challenges, budget cuts, restructuring, and piling on of responsibilities, nothing beats the impact an educator can have on the life of a child. Which is why, despite the work seemingly more challenging than ever before, this continues to be the greatest profession in the world.




Education — A “P.R.” Nightmare

Little by little, education feels more like business.  

I don’t make that statement based on a belief that the business impact is better or worse , just different.  There is an increased feeling of customer service that was brought to the forefront as school of choice and charter schools became part of our culture.  Parents can “shop” from school to school until they find the right fit.  With the increased focus on high stakes testing and accountability for schools, the media covers schools in a different way now.  They broadcast the grades and rankings schools receive.  While all of that has taken place, schools have been slow to catch up with what has become a need or an increase in public relations. NSPRA-logo-with-name.jpg (453×175)

One thing that I’m 100% certain of is that businesses market themselves and sell the positives of their product better than schools do.  It’s the nature of business.  My close friends in the business world share with me all the time the new marketing and advertising strategies they will be using to promote their brand.  Schools have to follow that trend.  Clearly, not many districts have enough money to pay someone to do that job.  So, the responsibility falls upon us.  Fortunately, in 2016, there are various avenues and possibilities for us to use.

Think of it this way…the negative stories of schools are going to be told.  They aren’t going away.  They will be posted in social media, with some truths and untruths.  They will be on the TV news, online news sites, and local newspapers.  We have the opportunity to provide some balance to how public education is viewed.  Schools are better educating students than ever before and that is the story that needs to be told.

public relations.jpg (600×490) Education is under attack, from taxpayers, special interest groups, and others.   

This is the media age — Communication needs have increased and become more complex. School districts need professionals to develop and execute integrated, multi-media, and face-to-face communication plans.  

The outrage industry Those perpetually angry voices in the marketplace of ideas, have a larger, more powerful voice thanks to blogs, forums and anonymous posts on news Web sites. Unfortunately, school districts often fall into the trap of caving in to the local outrage industry … even though it represents a minority position, and only serves to undermine the academic environment. – SCG Advertising and Public Relations

To my fellow educators, I implore you to take the summer and consider these action steps, which I think we should all take.  All are free and available to every educator:

1. Survey your parent group and find out in what format they would like to receive consistent communication.  In that consistent communication, share one positive story a week from what is happening in your classroom/school.  Make it a highlighted section and be consistent with the inclusion of the information.

2. We need to get positive information into the mobile devices that are in the hands of students and parents.  Consider using various forms of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to share out those positives.  It’s fast, informative, and simple.

3. Make it a point to share positives, in person, to people at community events.  We always get the question, “how is school going?”  Share authentic, positive, and impactful stories that will show your school in a positive light.

It is our opportunity, in fact, our duty, to share the great things that happen everyday in our schools.  The perception of your school can have a large impact on school board elections, administrative decisions, and bond issues passing.  We are talking about millions of dollars that can positively impact our profession.  Take the time to develop your plan this summer and starting next fall, do your part.

public-relations-in-schools-1-728.jpg (728×546)