Rethinking the School Newsletter

My family took a relaxing, fun-filled trip to Kauai with some dear friends recently.  I relished the ‘away-ness’ of this particular vacation–checked email once a day, left my always-by-my-side Idea Notebook at home, and just vacationed.  My boys continually announced, “This is the best place in the whole world!”  So the trip worked for everyone.

Now that we’re back from the relaxation and fun of Kauai, I’ve got my nose back in my Idea Notebook, continuing my brainstorming on various Google docs and reading many of my favorite blogs to narrow, clarify and solidify some ideas I’ve got floating around.

The school newsletter is one such project.  In recent years we’ve had a very talented mom on campus do the publishing.  Our Shamrock News looks great.  This year, she would like to hand the newsletter to someone else.  A very understandable transition that happens all the time at school.

For me, it creates an opportunity to change how we view, use and consume the newsletter.

The goal of a school newsletter (presumably) is to provide valuable information to the community (dates, events), share thoughts or information from the principal (From the desk of… or something equivalent) and reflect on events gone by (book fair success or an interesting assembly).  This, at least, has been the focus of our newsletter.

Interesting questions to ponder:

  • Who’s doing the writing?
  • Print, online or both?
  • Is the community actually reading it?  If not, why?
  • Is this information redundant?  Already on the website, wiki or in teacher’s classroom updates?
  • Are we taking full advantage of a bi-weekly newsletter to build community and keep folks connected?

I’m considering pulling in our GLT (Grant Leadership Team) to invigorate the newsletter and give it a real voice–students.  GLT is a group of 3rd through 6th graders (2 per classroom) who serve as the Leadership Team for a two month term.  Currently they run the weekly assembly, coordinate spirit days and handle classroom recycling.  The newsletter would be a nice addition to their duties and give the group a more robust presence and responsibility.

Since the Shamrock News comes out every two weeks, we’ve got some time to play with.  I’ve generated a list of possible articles, pairs of students would work together to interview, collect data, brainstorm, then we’d all meet in the computer lab during a lunch to generate the articles.  We could even include student art.

This approach addresses quite a few of my earlier pondering.  I think our community will be more active consumers of the newsletter since the voice has shifted.  The articles created by students are not seen elsewhere (website, wiki, etc.).  We would address up-coming events, past events and daily workings of the school to keep our community connected.

What sits on my mind currently is the format.  I need to be able to generate paper versions for those not able to access it any other way.  But what is the best online format–Blog? Newsletter tool?  Publisher, then post on our website?  So I head out to my PLN (personal learning network) to ask.

There will always be many options out there–but finding the right tool for the job is key.  Next stop: Twitter & The Educator’s PLN.

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