Teaching Opinion

Weekly Departmental Newsletters Are an Opportunity to Share

By Starr Sackstein — January 25, 2019 3 min read
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We shouldn’t have meetings just to meet. There are many pieces of information that can be shared with our teams in less formal ways that also provide more regular communication about a variety of different and important matters.

This school year, I started a weekly newsletter with a variety of different sections with the purpose of supporting district initiatives, shouting out work well done, and providing resources for teachers based on conversations and walk-throughs to help folks thrive.

Each Friday, I send out a 1-page PDF (I do my best to keep it to one page) that displays the district’s vision at the top. Here are the sections of the newsletter:

  • In the News This Week: This section specifically speaks to events and/or happenings for this calendar week from Monday to the Friday the newsletter is addressing. This serves to let people in the department know what has happened.
  • Tips and Tricks: This section is meant to help teachers with their current practices. Usually, I get my inspiration from conversations I have with teachers throughout the week, exit ticket responses from a prior department meeting, areas noticed in walk-throughs that need support, and/or general tips that come up during other meetings or conversations with administrative leaders. I often include helpful links that will further explore the topics addressed by outside experts.
  • Reminders: These are reminders of important schoolwide, districtwide, or departmental directives and/or expectations. So if we are preparing for the testing week, a reminder might be about the time and dates of preparation materials and where they should be left. These areas are really informational and serve as another way to communicate with the department and other buildings about expectations rather than send them in an email.
  • Shoutouts: This is probably my favorite section as it is an opportunity to give a call out to any person in the department who did something great this week and/or improved. It’s a chance to celebrate learning or hard work publicly. If a teacher plans a special event for students or tries something new in class, then that teacher gets a shoutout. Everyone should be recognized at some point, so they know we notice their hard work.
  • Upcoming Important Dates: This is just calendar items and events that are coming in the next week or so. Depending on how important the event is and if I want attendance, I may put it in the upcoming events earlier so people can plan on being there earlier. Again, this is informational.
  • Reflection Questions: These are questions that I often like to link to the tips and tricks or to events happening in school. In an effort to keep learning visible and challenge department members to be more reflective, the questions are there to provide a framework and hopefully inspire teachers to start helping students reflect more as well.
  • An Inspirational Quote: This is just a quote that is usually aligned with the major themes of the newsletter meant to inspire teachers when they read it.
  • Social-Media Reminder: This is just a reminder about our departmental Twitter handle and hashtag as well as encouragement for our team members to start using Twitter on their own to share their great student work and classroom learning.
  • What I’m Reading or Recommended Resources: This section doesn’t always appear, but sometimes if I read something really good, I want to share with teachers and/or other leaders, I will add the reading resources as well.

The way we communicate with our team matters and making sure there are regular opportunities to share information that both shows we are listening and trying to support their needs is important.

Of course, a newsletter will never supplant the need for face-to-face interaction about important information and feedback, but it is an additional way to get nonspecific feedback and recognition to individuals of the group.

These newsletters don’t have to be onerous or take too much time to create. Generally, if you keep the document open as a tab on your desktop and return to it at the end of each day, you can add something that will help make for an authentic and meaningful communication to share at the end of each week, or you can share it at the start of each week as a preview depending on which way makes the most sense for you and your team.

How do you ensure regular communication with your team if you can’t meet face to face all of the time? Please share

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