What story does your school tell? How do your students, teachers, parents, and community know if your story is true? Writing a blog is an excellent way to share successes, challenges, and opportunities. When you blog consistently, you tell your story in an ongoing way and hold your school accountable to the community. At Apalachee High School, I write a weekly blog called Monday Memo, which enables shareholders to start the week with a redefined purpose of encouragement and commitment.
Advantages of Blogging
Email, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are great tools for sharing bursts of information—when you need to quickly inform stakeholders or ask for specific and limited feedback. Blogging, however, allows secondary school principals to tell the story behind the data and to reach beyond their classrooms and into the community. In addition, with blogs, shareholders can respond with reflective comments and varying perspectives.
Some bloggers are more technical, while others are more narrative. The most important element of blogging is knowing your audience. For educators, this is imperative. Teachers want more time, not less. The blog should replace the barrage of emails coming from school leaders. I recommend a weekly frequency and prefer Mondays as the optimal day. Beginning the week with positive reflections and challenges, as well as notifying stakeholders of scheduled fire drills, student assemblies, and community events, is a huge advantage of Monday blogs. Our faculty and staff receive the blog link via email, plus, the blog is publicly shared on Google and posted to our school website and social media outlets. In this way, any shareholder can access the content of the blog. In the Monday Memo, I use the following approach:
- Research-based or inspirational quote
- Personal, narrative-based connection or shared experience
- Connection to the classroom or example of how to improve
- Reminders for the week
- Brief closing thoughts
Writing a weekly blog can be challenging. However, it can help you avoid panicking over events or having to send last-minute emails. In November, when teachers begin to tire and potentially fall back into old habits, it is doubly important to refocus and share expectations. By this time last year (my first year as principal), I was stunned at the amount of writing I had shared with my faculty and pleased that my commitment to the work and my blogging, through the Monday Memo, was making an impact.
Below is an excerpt from my November 2015 blog, written right before the Thanksgiving break.
“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” —George Washington
Last week, Apalachee High School represented itself in so many positive ways. Our band participated in the annual drum line standoff with WBHS; to say they had fun is an understatement. On Veterans Day, our JROTC and chorus programs created a ceremony that honored veterans and their families, and they persevered through some cold weather and sound concerns with professionalism and poise. Meanwhile, our band played beautifully and collaboratively with WBHS at the city of Winder’s Veterans Day ceremony. Throughout the day, our JROTC traveled to cluster elementary schools and other community locations in honor of this special day. In addition, we had four athletes officially sign to play at the college level. The pride seen and heard by their coaches on this day was authentic, inspiring, and eloquent, celebrating the accomplishments of these students, not only on the court, field, and pool, but in the classrooms and hallways of AHS. Throughout the week, we had several teachers and support staff working to make Career Palooza a success. As a result of the hard work behind the scenes, the day was significant for students, and our community stakeholders had positive words to say about our school culture. Furthermore, AHS had 15 students make it to the state level for the Governor’s Honors Program. We had a group of Interact students work on a house for Habitat for Humanity, and that group has taken the lead in preparing a Thanksgiving meal for those in need in the community. I’m certain there were several other great events and honors that I’m forgetting as well. Bottom line? Great things are happening at our school every day.
Here’s why: teachers, coaches, and sponsors. All of the things mentioned in the first paragraph are about dedication. When I experience events associated with AHS, I am always moved by the dedication of the adults surrounding our students.
When I think of George Washington’s words, I think about being present. “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” It is better to be present each day and become part of something than to come to work each day feeling as if you aren’t connected.
The blog concludes, after weekly reminders, with the importance of building relationships with one another and our students and being thankful for the opportunities in education.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m not sure why I love it so much. It could be the smells, the anticipation of Christmas, jumping in leaves, playing football, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or cooking so many things it’s impossible to keep track of what’s going on. Nonetheless, it’s my favorite holiday. This year, I am incredibly thankful for all of you and for this school.
Jennifer Martin is the principal of Apalachee High School in Winder, GA.
Making It Work
- Choose a blogging platform you’re comfortable using. If your school uses Google Docs, you might want to go with Google. WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr provide other blog options.
- Know your audience. Focus on both instructional and operational strengths. Celebrate successes, but embrace opportunities to grow.
- Don’t make sweeping negative generalizations. For example, avoid issues involving dress code or tardiness to work, and instead handle these discussions personally.