The parlance of the moment in the Edu-sphere (and, quite frankly, any issue covered by the media) is about THE NARRATIVE. Products have narratives, services have narratives, celebrities request to be added or removed from “the narrative.” We need to tell our narrative, craft our narrative, share our narrative. Narrative is just a fancy word for “story” but the word gives us the power to narrate the story for ourselves. We are the authors and the main characters. We have some control over the plot. It isn’t a work of fiction, but a memoir written in the present tense.
But how do we do this in a way that people will listen? And how do we do it in a way that is truthful?
It should be quite clear from Dr. Garceau’s presentation at our opening convocation that he expects us to have a presence on social media. He touted the #BulldogEd hashtag and even breathed life into some variations of the word with his talk about “doggedness.” If you’ve scoured Twitter over the past two weeks, you know that the use of the hashtag has exploded throughout the district which is an awesome way to tell our story to the local community and engage in broader state or national conversations about teaching and learning. Check it out, you won’t regret it.
For those who might be uncomfortable about using social media, consider shifting your communication home to families or out to the community. Can you use Skyward to message home to parents and guardians about something awesome in class today? Can you mail student work home to show parents and guardians what kind of thinking students are doing? Can you email one parent per prep period to say something positive about their son or daughter? Looking more broadly, can we enlist local businesses to display student work? Can we use The Westerly Sun differently? Better yet, engage students in this communication. Take time in class or Advisory and have students email home one positive thing they learned from their classes this week. Have students reach outside the walls of WHS to share what they are doing. All of those practices help tell our story in a way that people may listen and begin to understand our organization a bit better.
Regardless of the conduit, we need a blitz… an overshare blitz. We need to make the great things that are happening something that the community cannot ignore. That’s step 1. Just get the good stuff out there, some way, somehow.
“The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.”
However, all that glitters is not gold. Right now, it’s easy. We do a fun getting-to-know-you activity, post a pic of smiling students or a motivational quote, and think we’re done. Then we start teaching. We start asking kids to do tough things. The weather gets yucky. We get tired. Our beginning of the year adrenaline runs out. This is when reflection is important. We must make every effort to reflect individually and collectively on our sharing, our classroom practices, the reactions (or nonreactions) we receive from our audiences. And then, we need to share our reflections, highlight growth and struggles, shifts and changes. We need to share this tough stuff with each other, with students, with families, with the community because that’s where the “gold” is and that’s what glitters. It’s what’s true – about us, about our profession, about our clientele, about our practices. Education is a constant iterative cycle and that’s what is most difficult for the broader non-educational community to understand. We’re never “done.” And while this truth is difficult for some, we should embrace it as an invigorating challenge, hence step 3, “Repeat.”
We have the power to tell an engaging and meaningful story about our value. If we don’t tell it, someone else will and we know down which roads that can lead. Whatever your comfort level, whatever your entry point, just start sharing the story of your classroom, of your students, of yourself as an educator. Then collectively we have a solid, truthful, district-wide story with a happy ending.