The SCN Encourager – Thursday, December 20, 2012

School communicators “individually” make up a very unique group

Okay, so I’m not telling you something you probably didn’t already know. But at least I now have the “data” to prove that we school communicators are a unique bunch of characters. (And in many good ways, of course!) What is my “data?” It’s the email replies I get back from these “Encourager” postings. I save them as they come in, and they’re … well, interesting. I wish I could provide more detail but the release of the composite analysis of these email replies has been embargoed until 2014 or the Mayan apocalypse, which ever comes first. But here’s a taste:

Yesterday (12/19) I wrote about Subway’s “health halo” and wondered if we had something similarly affecting parent and community perceptions about our schools as well. And no, no one emailed me back phrases like “brilliant commentary” or “Keep it up, Hemingway!” Those are not the kind of responses my writing inspires, apparently. But I did receive an email asking why I included art and music in my “school halo” think-about-it example. The questioner wondered (in jest no doubt) why I brought up art and music when I usually bring up sports.

Fair question. I grew up in a family of all boys and now my own family is all girls. Do I wish one of my daughters back in high school was a lightning quick point guard, shortstop, or goalie? Sure. But it didn’t happen. Do I wish that I could tell my daughters that way back when I was in high school I was a lightning quick point guard, shortstop, or goalie? Sure. But this didn’t happen, either.

In spite of my great love of sports, I’ve been blessed with girls who are passionate about art and music. Although I couldn’t convince them to attend the M.S.U. vs. Ohio State football game with me last fall, they’re not homebodies. I’m pretty sure that they’d eagerly attend any wild tailgate party as long as it preceded the grand opening of a new museum or some such thing.

So here’s the touchpoint for school communicators. When any of our school domains (sports, band, orchestra, etc.) have made the front page for one reason or another, due to the clammer of boosters, a controversy, or success in a competition, we are aware of it and typically jump onto the bandwagon with appropriate messages of our own (as well we should).

Frequently, however, there’s simply no bandwagon for us to jump on. Too often we find that many school-related references are only brief tidbits thrown in as filler for some larger non-school related article or discussion.

Here’s what I mean. And mind you, the following paragraph came from a much longer software review about a finance & bookkeeping app that accurately keeps track of checkbook entries.

“Today, the notion of balancing a checkbook seems as archaic as an hour of art class in public school. But this does not stop from trying to help users make sense of their finances, though.”

Did you catch the same line I did? It’s too bad that our schools are hampered by all kinds of tiny, throw-away references like this one, which are tucked into sentences making up a larger article that has nothing to do with education. And these are so common, we typically overlook them. Even if the author is well intentioned, rarely do any of the school-related references portray anything positive.

It’s much easier for us to craft big messages to promote or defend our big school issues than to respond to these too-small-to-battle negative phrases and quips. They’re like those little gnats – pesky and darn hard to swat. Normal people probably don’t even bother trying. But luckily, we’re a unique bunch of characters!

Tom Page, SCN managing editor
cartoon 12:20:12

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