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Improve Your Internal Communications with Slack
Communication methods within schools are often outdated and disconnected. Adults rely on emails, text messages, hall passes, telephones, and PA systems to share information, but these methods can be disruptive and inefficient. Administrators may even use walkie-talkies for emergencies.
This mishmash of communication tools only reinforces barriers and hinders effective dialogue. It’s a system of miscommunication rather than communication.
Slack revolutionized the way we saw ourselves and our school. It transformed us from a group of individuals into a cohesive team with shared goals. By centralizing communication in one place, we were able to celebrate successes, support each other during tough times, and make necessary adjustments.
We utilized Slack to share operational information, provide instructional feedback, update each other about students, and foster a sense of community. Our team communicated more efficiently and effectively than ever before. We had eyes and ears all over the building, enabling us to identify what was working well and address challenges before they escalated. And in moments of crisis, everyone was informed and knew their respective roles.
Here’s how you can create your own Slack ecosystem to enhance communication.
Improving Operational Efficiency
First, choose a messaging platform that suits your team’s needs, like Slack. Create different channels for different purposes (e.g., #6thgrade, #humanities, #admin). Train your team on how and what to communicate. Ensure that the right people are invited to the right channels to streamline interactions.
Need to send a student to the nurse? Use the #nurse channel. This way, anyone who needs to know why a child is in the hallway and where they’re going can find that information in real time. No more guessing or hallway interrogations.
Is a bathroom stall door broken or a water fountain clogged with gum? Let the facilities team know through the #facilities channel.
Facilitating Professional Development and Collaboration
Messaging platforms like Slack offer more than just operational support. They foster shared experiences and enable continuous, transparent communication.
Use Slack to share instructional techniques and create new avenues for professional development. For example, if you observe an effective teaching strategy in a science class, take a photo and share it in the #science channel with a caption like, “Check out this design thinking in Mr. Carroll’s class!” This way, other science teachers can view and learn from it. If you want everyone to see it, post it in the main communication channel.
Additionally, special education teachers can share relevant readings in the #teamreads channel. This allows everyone to read, comment, and generate ideas.
Teachers can also seek help and share their challenges. They can ask questions like, “I’m struggling to engage Mariah. Does anyone have any success strategies?” or “My presentation lesson was a failure! Can anyone talk it through with me to improve it for the next group?”
Slack provides a platform to celebrate colleagues either privately or for everyone to see. In our channel #teamwins, for instance, we might share the following message: “We see you, Mr. Sweat! Thanks for ensuring those girls had quality uniforms for the game!”
For colleagues who don’t seek the spotlight but appreciate recognition, send them a direct message. It could be something like, “Hey Bianca, thank you for organizing those bagged lunches on short notice. The day went smoothly, and we have you to thank.”
Celebrating and Acknowledging Students
Appreciation doesn’t have to be exclusive to adults. You can celebrate students by sharing call-outs such as:
- “Hi Team. Talvin arrived to school on time today after struggling with punctuality. Let’s celebrate his accomplishment and show him our support!”
- “Tavon’s grandmother passed away last night. Please be mindful as he may be feeling down today.”
- “Emma’s family just informed her that they will be moving next week. You may notice some changes in her behavior.”
Creating a Transparent Workspace
Real-time communication ensures that every team member knows they are working towards a common goal, even when it’s not visible.
For example, you can keep the team informed about the support provided to a struggling student by sharing updates like, “Hi team. We know Daniel has been having a tough day. We want to inform you of the support we’ve been providing to him and the staff. We’ve spoken to his mom, scheduled a meeting with the counselor, and made sure he has something to eat. We’ll continue to keep you updated.”
If you’re tracking a student’s progress and providing incentives, create a channel with their name and invite their teachers to join. For instance, “Hi Team. We’re using #adam to track Adam’s progress towards his goals and identify any obstacles. Please share any notes or observations here.”
Building Culture and Collegiality
Promote and foster a positive culture in the #random channel, where teachers can share personal thoughts, recommendations, and light-hearted moments (“Anyone catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones?”).
From an outsider’s perspective, the #random channel may seem like time-wasting chatter, but it actually helps build a sense of community and camaraderie. This channel is more effective at fostering a collegial atmosphere than any team-building activity or social event.
Facilitating Leadership Dissemination
Create a #makeitbetter channel where team members can contribute their ideas without any bureaucratic obstacles. There’s no need to navigate through emails or overcome bottlenecks.
Some examples of valuable contributions in this channel could be:
“Next year, let’s schedule all field trips on the same day!”
“Transitions have been challenging on the first floor. Can we assign someone to be present during them?”
“We’ve been loving the Arts Integration lessons in Mrs. Hunt and Mr. Espinoza’s classes. Can we have them present on the next professional development day?”
Maintaining Consistent Connection
Instant internal messaging can significantly impact the way you work. Cross-platform messaging like Slack allows for streamlined communication, reduced inefficiencies, shared instructional strategies, and egalitarian leadership.
Implementing Slack in your school’s communication won’t automatically make your team better. However, it will enable your team members to perform at their best by providing them with more information, support, and a voice. They’ll feel part of a united team striving for shared goals, and they’ll have a broader view of the entire school ecosystem and their place within it.