A new school year always brings about change. Every year, schools experience changes in staffing. Some schools start new academic or extracurricular initiatives. Perhaps an exciting new technology is in the mix for the new year. Whatever change may come your way this school year, communicating change effectively with all stakeholders is instrumental to its success.
Earlier this calendar year, we published a blog post on communicating change effectively with your staff. That step in the change process is crucial—after all, it’s your staff who will be implementing the change.
In this post, we want to focus on communicating change with an equally important partner in the education journey: parents.
There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind when communicating change with parents, but for today we’re going to focus on five ideas that I think are of utmost importance. To better bring these ideas to life, I’m going to use a real-life example. Since I am a former school administrator, I’ve been asked to spearhead a volunteer initiative to get more male role models involved in the daily activity of my grandson’s school. We’re using a nationally recognized program that encourages fathers, grandfathers, and other relevant males to volunteer their time by being in the classrooms and hallways to mingle with the students. Our goal is to increase safety and security and provide positive and encouraging male role models for the kids.
With that initiative in mind, let’s look at five important ideas when communicating change with parents.
Understand you are dealing with their most precious commodity
First and foremost, realize that you are changing things that affect your parents' most precious commodity—their children. Remember that everything we do in schools should be with the ultimate goal of improving the educational experience of our students. It may affect their academics, safety, morale, or a variety of other things, but all change trickles down to the kids. So, when communicating change with parents, it is important to recognize that impact and to assure parents that the proposed change will result in something positive for their kids.
In the case of our new program at my grandson’s school, we will focus on the idea that, while many of the students in our school have positive male role models in their lives, there are some that do not. And, we’ll emphasize that when any child encounters male role models in a positive way, they become much more accepting of male authority figures. As I used to say when I was an administrator, “If it isn’t ultimately for the kids, then why are we doing it?”
Clearly explain your rationale
Change is a much easier pill to swallow when you know why the change is happening. In a culture that loves the, “But we’ve always done it that way” excuse for stagnation, you need to create a compelling argument for change. There are two approaches to creating a compelling argument: You can either explain the benefits of changing, or you can outline the consequences of not changing.. Either way, you create the rationale for not keeping the status quo.
In our example of getting more dads out to the school, we can cite that students, both male and female, develop more fully when they have a positive male role model actively engaged in their lives.
Your parent school relationship should be transparent
Let’s be honest, if there is no need for change, then don’t change! Change occurs when we see a need. Sharing that need with parents is very important, especially when there is a chance of a misperceived need. Changing food service companies? Some parents may conjure up the idea that there were health issues before, when perhaps the old company simply went out of business. Initiating a new dads in schools program? In light of recent school tragedies, you don’t want parents thinking there is a dire safety issue when you simply want your students to see the wonderful fathers in your community more often.
Share success, but don’t be afraid to share hard-learned lessons
Hopefully, you will experience positive results once your change is fully implemented. Don’t forget to shout those successes from the rooftops. Post news articles on your website. Create social media posts showing your students engaged in the new activity. Your parents deserve a “progress report” on the change. But, in addition to sharing the good news, don’t be afraid to share any hard-learned lesson along the way.
I fully anticipate the new dads program at my grandson’s school will be a success, but if we find we need to alter the program in any way along our journey to make it even more meaningful, we’ll share that information openly. I have always found that parents are both receptive and understanding when you are open and honest with them.
School communication to parents can come in a variety of ways
Hopefully, some of these ideas resonate with you and you can see the potential in each strategy. However, none of these ideas will work if you’re not using effective school communication to parents in ways that are meaningful to them. You will have some parents that like to read information in a newsletter, while others prefer to read about it on your school’s website. One family may favor text messages, while another wants voice calls. Others still may be more open to reading about things via social media. On top of all of this, some families may have language barriers. You need to communicate with families across multiple platforms in ways they find accessible and meaningful.
We all know that in today’s busy educational world, time is not something we have an abundance of. That's why finding a communication solution that is comprehensive and that allows you to create once and push everywhere is crucial. With a solution that is easy to use, intuitive, and integrated, communicating inevitable change with your parents is destined to be more successful.