Traditionally, January means New Year’s resolutions. It’s the time we emerge from the festive season determined to sign up to the gym, lose a kilo or two and finally write that bestseller.
However, I always think that for people who work in schools, the best time to make resolutions is September, because the start of the academic year is when you can most easily make changes that will have an impact on a child’s performance.
The reason so many of us have broken our traditional resolutions before the Christmas decorations are down, is that we try to change too much all at once. And for teachers and senior leaders looking to raise their game there’s certainly no shortage of advice out there on social media, blogs and websites.
So my suggestion is to take one fresh idea into the new school year and really make it work.
A new chapter
My thoughts immediately turn to strategies for helping pupils settle in to their year group. All pupils are facing new challenges at this time of year, after all, from the tiniest child in reception learning to write their name, to the world-weary sixth-former tackling the new specification A Levels.
And now we are a few weeks into the term, this can be the time that the novelty starts to wear off – the new shoes are not quite so shiny, homework is getting more difficult and reality has started to set in.
So how about embracing the power of the positive? Schools are, on the whole, very good at recording their pupils’ achievements. But we should never underestimate the power of sharing this good news with parents.
Spread the good news
Of course it’s important to inform parents if there are concerns about a pupil who has been late to school three times this week, or has not handed in their maths homework. But telling a parent that their child has worked really well on their geography project, or helped a classmate who fell over in the playground could be equally important.
Sharing positive news has a huge impact on the child’s motivation and can pay dividends. If parents echo the praise a child has received at school, the positive effect is multiplied, and being praised for their actions could help a child settle in to their new year, and encourage them to try harder.
And it’s not just the pupils who benefit. Sending positive news to parents helps to engage them more with their child’s school life, so they are better equipped to offer help, support and encouragement throughout the year, as and when it is needed. And naturally, everyone likes to hear good things about their child.
I would even argue that teachers and school leaders can gain from focusing on the positive achievements of their pupils and communicating them to families. Giving good news is nearly as satisfying as receiving it.
Small changes, big impact
As I mentioned, schools are already recording a lot of positive achievement and behaviour, and sharing this with parents need not take up valuable time and add to the workload. Some schools send out postcards or letters with good news, but a text, email or notification through an app can be a fast, yet effective way of making a big impact on parental engagement.
With technology such as the SIMS Teacher app, it can be easy to record incidents as they happen too, so if someone kindly helps a Year 7 pupil who is lost in the corridor, or puts in a great performance on the football pitch, these achievements need not go uncelebrated.
And best of all, sharing good news through the SIMS Parent app, with just a few taps of the screen, could help pupils stick to their new school year resolutions too. Meanwhile, we wish you, your colleagues and your pupils all the best for the new school year.