It's August. Back to school season is upon us. Which means that our recruitment and retention efforts can take a back seat for now, right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
Because, believe it or not, re-enrollment begins with the very first day of school.
Is your team ready for it? Not just ready with policy handbooks, athletic and arts schedules, lesson plans, and field trips slated, but ready to fully deliver on the brand promise that was made to all the families sending their students through your doors each day this year.
And we don't just mean your school admissions and administrative team. These efforts reach tentacles far beyond your school office and those official parent communications. It's time to create a culture in your school where everyone - from teachers to janitors to office staff - is involved in admissions marketing.
It Starts at the Head
As you're planning for your upcoming staff and faculty training, inservice, and orientation programs, Heads of School and Admissions Directors must make some training time to inspire and equip your staff and faculty to carry your school's vision forward.
First off, make sure that every single school employee is well-versed in what your school's vision is, along with your mission and your core values. That way, they can internalize it so they can represent it as they go about their days in the classrooms and hallways.
Model this concept yourselves, as the school leaders, even in your faculty meetings and training programs. Show how you are constantly striving to ensure that each decision is consistent with your school's brand.
It's delivered in the Classroom
Each teacher should remember that these students' families have a choice, and they are choosing you to teach their kids. It's a privilege...and an immense investment for many of them. Treat and treasure it as such. As a private school teacher, their job goes so far beyond just imparting knowledge (well, any teacher worth their salt - private or not - knows this).
This is partly where your mission, vision, and values come into play. These statements answer the crucial questions: who you are, what you stand for, and where you're headed. Why does this matter? Those who are on the front lines in daily contact with parents and students must know these answers if you want your school to offer the experience you promised to your families.
As you get your faculty psyched and prepped for the new school year, encourage each and every one of them to do the following 5 things all throughout the year:
1) Be Communicative
In your parent communications, be both frequent and specific. While it's nice when you send home all-class communications to tell what the whole group is up to, you should check in individually as well. And when you do, make it meaningful. Show the families that you truly “see” their child (yes, that means that your teachers should be sensitive enough to know what that means and to work at always getting to know each student well). Call out both the child's specific strengths and struggles and show how you're helping them grow into the person God has called them to be.
2) Be positive
...About your job, the students, and even your coworkers. You don't need to sugar coat behavior issues, but you can frame them to discuss how you are helping the student work through things. Parents should never hear you complain. We know you're human, we know you have tough days and there are things that make you frustrated, but parents should not be your sounding board. You are the face of our school to them. Check out Philippians 2:1-11 for biblical inspiration.
3) Be passionate
This job is very much a ministry, too! You have an opportunity to share the love of Christ every day through teaching. What a joy! Remember that. Pursue whatever you have to in order to reignite a passion for your job, for the subject you are teaching, and especially for each individual student's heart. Passion is contagious, and students will catch your heart's excitement and carry it on to their parents.
4) Ask questions
In your communications, don't just inform parents. Engage with them by checking in personally and asking what their concerns are, how things are going at home, and if there's anything you should know to help the student. Ask them if they are satisfied with how your child's school year is progressing and if they have any suggestions. Sure, we know that you can't put every parent's idea into practice (and you should give that disclosure to them, too), but if you practice being a good listener, hear their heart's concerns, and respond honestly and thoughtfully, it will be greatly appreciated and remembered. And, it will go a long way come re-enrollment time if parents see that the school is responsive to their family's needs.
5) Get social
You may not be able to post photos or share specific names online, but touting feel-good stories from your classroom on social media and your school website will help to promote the school overall. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for those encouraging moments in your day, when students do something heartwarming, when someone experiences a breakthrough in understanding, or even when laughter and joy rules the day. Share testimonies of how the Lord is working in your students' lives with both your friends and your school's administrative team, so the world can see the good works your school is doing!