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25 Ways to Grow a Language School Community
Community enhances school academic and business outcomes.
Is your school a community?
Or is it just a place where students come, attend class, and leave? Despite what most school managers think, a community is more than a few seasonal events and some half-hearted parent communication. A good community is an indicator of many things, but it mainly shows that active management has worked hard to establish a welcoming, learning culture amongst staff and students.
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As company culture reflects the CEO's values, a school's culture reflects the inherent beliefs of the management. And part of that culture is having a good community - in person or online.
But is it worth the time, energy and money to develop a thriving community? Let's look at some of the benefits.
Benefits for Students
Because, after all, the school is for them, right?
1. Improved academic performance: A feeling of belonging and connection with others can help improve a student's academic performance.
2. Increased social-emotional development: Social-emotional development can be improved by participating in school communities. This can help students develop communication skills, conflict resolution, and teamwork abilities.
3. Greater sense of belonging: Being part of a school community can give students a sense of belonging, which can help their well-being.
4. Enhanced school culture: Creating an inclusive and positive environment can help improve the school culture. This can also affect various aspects of the school, such as academic performance and behaviour.
5. Greater parent involvement: Being involved in a school community can also help improve the communication between parents and the school.
6. Better school-to-home connections: A positive and supportive school community can also help create a more welcoming environment for students and their families.
Benefits for Teachers
There are also many benefits for teachers and staff in building a school community, including:
1. Greater job satisfaction: The retention of staff members can also be improved by having a positive school community. They'll be more likely to stay with the organization due to the enjoyable work environment.
2. Improved retention: Being part of a supportive and positive school community can also boost the job satisfaction of staff members and teachers.
3. Enhanced collaboration: Teamwork and collaboration among teachers and staff members can be enhanced by forming a positive and cooperative atmosphere..
4. Increased productivity: Positive and cooperative atmospheres can result in improved efficiency and productivity among staff members and teachers.
Benefits for Schools
Putting people first is ironically better for business than putting finances first.
Think of it as the difference between short-term thinking. As a manager, when you think in the short term, you want to do whatever you can to save costs. You'll likely want to increase teaching hours per teacher, cut any extracurricular activities, and so on.
The result is unhappy teachers, and de-motivated students, which leads to higher recruitment and training costs and lower student retention, referrals, and higher student acquisition costs.
A strong school community is also beneficial for a school's reputation as it can help it stand out from the crowd and attract more potential students.
How to Build a Community
Hopefully, you're convinced that transforming your school into a community is the right thing to do. So how do you do it?
There's no guaranteed method that will work for every school in every culture, but there are certain principles you can follow that will increase your chances of success. These are also adaptable to online communities.
Make it easy for your customers to talk to staff.
Ask teachers and staff to use student and parent names (not just of their own classes).
Allow parents to book, change their booking, pay and refund online.
Use a system to collect, store and analyze parent and student feedback regularly.
Engage in customer research - ask parents and students what they enjoy, and what they do elsewhere that you could do within the school.
Ensure the management are visible and not hiding in offices. Have them wander the school and say hello to parents and students.
Ensure management talks to all staff regularly - they should keep their finger on the pulse of what's happening in the school.
Transparency and Fairness
Pay teachers for overtime.
Ask for teacher feedback regularly, and act on it if necessary.
Allocate tasks fairly - don’t overload your ‘best’ teachers.
Be transparent when sharing reasons for management decisions.
Create a community around regular activities (e.g. reading corner, library, show and tell, homework club).
Involve family - ensure that your student activities include parents and family members where appropriate.
Create a community calendar for activities, and display it prominently. Setup
Keep testing which events are popular (and change or alter ones that aren't).
Consistent guidelines followed for staff issues.
Same for student issues.
Create best practice processes for all common issues.
Use templates to reduce workload, and encourage other staff to do the same
Keep the same behavioural management guidelines for all classes
Use social media and other online platforms to create a virtual community for your students.
Update your online community regularly
Collect an email list of your students (and their parents) and email them regularly (but not too often for it to be annoying!).
Share success stories from students and teachers.
Encourage student-generated content to be posted.
What other ways have you used to build a community in your school?
If you’d like to learn more, you might like to go into more depth with my books:
1. Plan better, faster and stress-free with Lesson Planning for Language Teachers (134 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
2. Develop calm students and a classroom full of learning with Essential Classroom Management (27 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
3. Improve your teaching in five minutes daily with the Reflective Teaching Practice Journal (12 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).