Guest post by Carrie Jackson

Do you wonder whether or not all stakeholders on your campus clearly understand your expectations? For example, do all staff members, students, and families know your expectations for interactions with one another? For grading practices? For student arrival and dismissal? 

Effectively communicating expectations with clarity and fidelity can be a challenge. Personal conversations are best, but getting an audience with various stakeholder groups at different times can bring varied interpretations of what you intend to be the same message. Finding time to meet with a host of groups presents a great challenge in the harried lifestyles of the communities we serve.

I have long used a blog to convey in writing my philosophy and vision with our community. While it is good to have these ideas in writing, I have learned that communicating in writing alone can sometimes lack a personal touch. The written word omits voice inflections and facial expressions that can assist with positive tone and intent.

This is why I have forayed into the world of “vlogging,” or video blogging. It takes a different level of courage for me to video myself speaking, and it takes another level of courage to watch it back once I have recorded it, but our staff and community appreciate the personal touch.

We used my video blog to solve a problem this year. In our four-year middle school, serving grades 5 through 8, our staff members are stretched in a host of directions before and after school. We have attempted faculty meetings in a variety of ways, from varied time offerings to flipped meetings, to meetings during the day, to no meetings at all. In eight years as a campus, we just have not yet found that ideal fit.

This year we have “virtual faculty meetings” via my video blog. Here is how it works:

  • Each month (or so) I post video content that we would normally cover in a faculty meeting to my blog.
  • I chunk the content into small sections so that it is not one lengthy video. Nobody wants to view a 20-minute video.
  • I invite others to provide content as well so that other voices are represented (i.e., viewers are not just listening to me all the time).
  • To receive credit for having attended the faculty meeting, each staff member needs only comment on the post with key takeaways, questions, or something she/he has learned from the meeting.

To see one of our virtual faculty meetings in action, click here.

Benefits of our online faculty meeting:

  • The content of the meeting is publicly viewable. This means our students, families, and community can access it and know what we as their school leaders discuss and value. (Parents, students, and others are welcome to comment and ask questions too.)
  • Every staff member has a voice in the meeting. We have seen people who normally say nothing in an in-person meeting bring up great points in their blog comments.
  • It familiarizes everyone with blogging and/or commenting on a blog.
  • It models positive digital citizenship and virtual learning.
  • Staff members are able to access the content in a time and place that is convenient to them, and they can call it back up if they need it later on.

While our virtual faculty meetings are new to our campus this year, we have already experienced positive outcomes. Our staff overwhelmingly likes the online format because it is more conducive to their busy work/life schedules and allows them to refer back to it to read and watch the information at a later time. Teacher engagement and retention of the information has increased as evidenced by the types and frequency of questions and comments posted. Perhaps the reason for this increase is that the online format allows teachers to come to the meeting more focused and, as one teacher says, it “allows us to get to it on our own time when we aren’t thinking about the other things we should be doing or cancelling other commitments.”

What experiences have you had with vlogging? Could a virtual faculty meeting benefit you and your staff?

Carrie Jackson is principal of Timberview Middle School, Keller ISD, in Fort Worth, TX. A middle school principal for over 12 years, she has been actively involved with NASSP as a Digital Principal of the Year in 2013 and Texas State Coordinator. She is currently serving as the State President of TASSP. Follow her on Twitter @jackson_carrie.

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