November 6, 2021 by Dr. Robbie Barber
When working with teachers, it is a bad idea to decide that because they are adults, they don’t require the same kind of learning consideration we give our students. Some teachers need to read the information, some need to hear it, and some need to view it in images. Everyone needs repetition. We rarely understand things at first glance.
There are actually multiple questions when offering help. The first problem is what to share. The second is how to share. The third is when to share, which has the additional caveat of how often. And, the most important question is did it work? When you’re working with students you have assessments in place to find out how much they have learned in an area. Are you doing that with the adults?
What to Share?
The goal is to find and meet the needs of the teachers. You may notice things in your daily operations. You may answer a specific question and recognize that everyone may need a little more information. I use to make a list of items that I wanted to go over each week for the semester. It was helpful to give me a starting point, but it got abandoned fairly early because the goal wasn’t to follow my agenda but to help teachers with theirs.
Answer the immediate need.
Our buildings have large printers/ copiers that we can send files to and they will print multiple copies. This is extremely handy when it works. And, a real problem when it doesn’t. Especially since the new teacher laptops only print to these large printers. When I discovered there was a flash drive connection, I sent an email telling teachers they could use their flash drives to print their class papers.
My short email made several assumptions. I assumed that everyone could find the flash drive location. I assumed that everyone could find their files on a flash drive easily. And, I assumed that everyone knew copiers were not full computers and could not print Word or PowerPoint files.
I used my weekly newsletter (image provided) to put in pictures and step-by-step instructions. While I think I should have rewritten it again, it worked for the immediate need.
How to Share
As noted above, I used email originally. The goal was to reach everyone in the quickest format that was not interrupting classes (like overhead announcements or a group Remind). The email, it turned out, served a purpose I had not recognized originally. It let everyone know that it was not their account! Because I saw so many people with the problem, I had made the fatal error of assuming everyone knew about the problem. But most people thought it was their personal account not at work and spent a lot of time resending and going to different devices around the school. The email (4 lines long) stopped that useless cycle. I should note here that if you are using email, the subject line matters a LOT! My subject line was “Sam Moss printers – problems”. More people clicked on it than might have it I said “How to print” or something else less specific.
While this sharing was an immediate need, you need to consider what works best for each subject. Is it email, newsletter, a sign in the room, flyers in the mailboxes, a phone call, a talk in the hallway, or, as my last option, an overhead announcement? You might not think the “talk in the hallway” is very effective, but if you are speaking to someone who will share with their group, it can be the most effective method of communication. One size does not fit all.
When to Share
Set Up a Routine
Just like our students, I rely on a routine for teaching. My routine is to create the weekly newsletter (one-pager) and set it to send on Mondays at 7:30 am. In the body of the email, I give a one-line description of what the key lesson is. Teachers may open it immediately based on the description or wait until later.
On Tuesdays, I send an email telling teachers what I’m focused on for my mini-lesson and what baked good they can get if they listen. (#TicklingTechTuesday)
Last, if I have a resource I think that teachers in an area/ grade could use, I usually set that email to send on Wednesdays, but only to that small group. My history teachers do not need information about a new math resource. FACT: If I pound everyone with everything, they will ignore my emails.
Now, any additional emails, signs, calls, etc. are addressing a specific need. To the best of my ability, I am trying to avoid overdoing it so that teachers do not dismiss my attempts at communication offhand.
If I’ve sent teachers instructions on the printer, with pictures and steps, am I done? It’s in their email and searchable by both my name and subject line. Now, am I done? No. In reality, everyone doesn’t read their emails on a timely schedule. This one is even trickier because no one can print it off without the instructions contained in the email. (Did you see that one coming?!) In this case, I need to print it and post it on the printers so others can see the directions. Will I need to repeat this? Actually, yes, I should but hopefully not until next year. Still, it is something that should probably be introduced again to new faculty and act as a reminder to existing ones.
Did It Work?
There is really only one way to find out if your communication is working…ask!
Every semester I send out a form to teachers to ask if the weekly newsletter and TicklingTech Tuesday is helpful or not. I make it easy and give them a weekly summary to find out what was useful. Last year, when we were all remote, I got a whopping 33% return on surveys. (Normal surveys hope for 8-10%.) I use that information to inform my next semester.
I have a Twitter account and an Instagram account associated with my school library. I do not use it to inform on problems in the school. Instead, it is the “happy news” conduit. I share positive messages from my library, school, and district. I do not use them to engage in conversations. I save the conversations for my personal professional account. The school social media is not a platform to give my opinion, but instead a platform to show the power of the school librarian in action.
Tweet on alternative communication methods to read the principal’s weekly parent emails.