Staging the School#Leadership
by Casey ThompsonRead time:
Your first impression should convey your district’s authentic brand and spirit, and it’s likely made online—through websites, blog posts, or social media. But what about the second impression: the first time visitors step foot on campus? Here are four components of making the first in-person interaction a memorable and positive experience.
Safety is #1As always, a safe place to learn is the number one priority for staging a strong first impression. It really doesn’t matter what size the school is or how long it’s been standing, as long as it’s maintained well and safe. If the budget is tight, prioritizing only the basics of maintenance is okay—it’s amazing how far a fresh coat of paint, regular mowing, and other handy touch-ups can go.
Take the next step to build the curb appeal by partnering with science or agriculture classes to identify some hardy perennial plants to incorporate at the entrance of the school. The outdoorsy among your school’s population will be only too happy to take on the care and keeping of natural elements.
BelongingAnother opportunity to involve students in the staging process includes showcasing student work. We typically envision hanging artwork throughout the hallways, and this is definitely a fantastic way to keep the school colorful. However, tap into the subjects whose assignments are less often shared. Add technical education projects into the trophy case on rotation. Blow up history papers onto 11”x17” paper and hang them near the main office. If your school has a couple unused monitors, a goldmine of content awaits. Video, slideshows, and other digital content can keep students’ work in the spotlight at all times.
Although these displays are important for welcoming visitors, it serves double-duty as a way to show students they matter, they belong, and their work is worthwhile.
Invest in school cultureThe feeling inside the school is just as important—even more so—than aesthetics and architecture. It takes time, effort, and lots of participation to create, so no quick fixes here. The outcome is absolutely worth it, though. A strong school culture is the difference between being an average district and a destination.
There’s plenty to say on this topic in the culture section of Advancing K12, but the importance of a strong school culture becomes especially clear when it’s time to create school branding. Without culture, the components of a strong brand are impossible to identify.
A school’s brand is more than the mascot and colors (although those are important too). Brands are built on what sets you apart from the crowd. Once you can identify that claim to fame, tell your story and share your story. You’re on your way to building a strong brand.
Delegate and empower staffThe process of staging the school requires a team effort. Once you’ve identified your brand, it’s time to share it with your team. Get everyone on the same page, and delegating school staging gets easier. Trust staff to uphold your brand’s standards and show the same pride. This may require some coaching or training along the way, especially if branding is new to the district. The value branding brings back to the existing community can’t be overstated—showing school pride creates interest in the district, which attracts new families and staff. A collective rallying cry or hashtag (think #gocrickets in Fall Creek, Wisconsin) gives everyone a common bond to share.
It’s hard work to create engaging displays for classrooms, but for some it can become a labor of love. Is your team good-natured, creative, and competitive? Kick off each new quarter (trimester, season—what have you) with a door-decorating contest. It gets everyone involved but keeps the stakes low, not to mention gets kids excited in the meantime.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. While those first looks have mostly moved online, where they’re easier to curate and maintain, it can be challenging to keep buildings, culture, and branding consistent on the daily in a constantly changing school. Keep a solid second impression staged, and it just might make the difference in landing a new hire or welcoming a new family.
Follow-up resource: The District WebsiteHow's your digital first impression looking? Find inspiration in the 10 School District Websites to Learn From.
|Casey Thompson Digital Media Manager