- Communication is key for a successful school year
- Educators also prioritize self-care and mental health
- See related article: 5 tips I’m excited to share with first-year teachers
- For more news on school year priorities, visit eSN’s Innovative Teaching page
Education news is full of trends and predictions for the new school year, but hearing from the folks doing the work is a more direct path to understanding what educators need at this moment.
Heading into the 2023-2024 school year, K-12 teachers and principals are sharing their honest views on their goals and challenges. Let’s uncover what really matters to educators and how it’s shaping our schools.
When we asked educators about their top goals for the school year, a whopping 75 percent said “building strong communication” was at the top of their list. This goal is the cornerstone of a successful school year. Why? Because solid, consistent communication between school and home builds trust, leading to better attendance and academic achievement, improved behavior, and stronger social-emotional skills. It’s even backed by new research showing that students whose families had the highest levels of trust in their community had the best outcomes coming out of remote learning. So, setting up a good communication routine is a fantastic goal for a successful 2023-24.
One way to approach it is to picture your communication plan as a funnel:
Top of the funnel:
The trick is to make sure every family gets updates through the whole funnel regularly and on a consistent schedule.
Coming in second place, 55 percent of respondents mentioned “prioritizing self-care.” It is not just acceptable, but essential, to prioritize self-care. Taking time to rest and recharge is vital for personal well-being and sets an example of healthy practices for the entire school community.
A top challenge for 71 percent of respondents was “effectively reaching all families with back-to-school information and communication.” Ensuring that crucial information reaches families is directly linked to student success. But it can be a complex task. Families have diverse languages, and information access methods, and some face housing instability. To ensure successful learning recovery, it is essential to get students back to school, and this begins with effective communication with parents and guardians. Districts must adopt a multifaceted approach, which includes clear, positive guidance in families’ home languages on the importance of attendance, group messages to classes or grades with information and expectations, and one-to-one outreach by teachers, advisors, or counselors.
After the challenge of reaching all families, the next big concern was “making attendance a core value,” mentioned by 45 percent of folks. Research shows that taking a punitive approach to attendance can backfire on students. Instead of encouraging them to show up, it can have the opposite effect. Why? Because students need to know that their presence at school matters. Positive outreach is the way to go.
Promoting attendance as a core value can take many forms, from a letter from the superintendent in a family’s home language, to building shoutouts for good attendance, to class-wide pizza parties, to simply creating a welcoming atmosphere that makes students want to be at school.
Here are some insightful tips from fellow educators that align with the top goals and challenges our respondents identified:
- “We stick to our nighttime routine and get to bed early.”
- “Consistent, short, informative communication.”
- “Be positive!! Things will work out.”
- “Starting with an engaging communication activity.”
- “Breathing and finding calmness.”
- “Keep my planning calendars from previous years. Allows a framework to begin from each year. Minor tweaks vs. full creation.”
- “Started a newsletter to communicate celebrations, expectations, and resources for my teachers.”
- “There’s so much to do as we head back to school; it is easy to get distracted. So, I help myself stay on track by picking a task, setting a timer, and going hard at that one thing (and I put my phone in a different room to lessen distractions).”
- “Supporting admin and teachers with establishing multiple pathways for communication. one phone call, one email, one newsletter, before our ‘Back to School’ event.”
In summary, the key takeaway is to communicate openly and take care of yourself.
In these insights from educators, we can see twin themes for a productive year: strong communication and self-care. Communication is our foundation, self-care our strength, and empathy our guide. By fostering trust, embracing well-being, and addressing challenges head-on, we can make every school day count for every student.
Thank you to all the educators who shared their insights. Here’s to a year of growth, resilience, and student success!
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