Although it’s close to the end of term, droves of new parents are signing up to their school communities. Clearly a key factor is down to school community leaders hosting innovative and fun Christmas events and fairs this year. Perhaps another factor though, is that the more recent lockdown has shown us we need community now more than ever. Which is why how you welcome parents from the get go really matters.
What is a community?
This leads on to what is a community exactly? We often hear parents complain that WhatsApp groups aren’t a community. Or the other social media favourites: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter also don’t come up to scratch. Personally, I agree that these aren’t communities. Instead they are tools to create an audience. Whereas, my favourite definition of what is a community is from the community guru Charles H. Vogl:
A community is a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.
I would argue that a school community is a prime example of this definition. Staff and parents share a common goal of wanting each child to reach their full potential and be happy. At least in the early days parents help make this happen by arranging playdates. Later the role of parents and staff is more around safeguarding. Above all community members need to feel they can be part of an environment they trust.
Initiating and welcoming parents
Who’s in the community and is it safe – are the common fears held by prospective members. Initiating new members in a consistent way should allay these fears. Initiations vary in their formality across different kinds of schools. In international schools, often new parents are assigned a buddy to look after them. Whereas in a local school, a personalised welcome message goes a long way in making a parent feel that they are accepted and belong.
The crisis of belonging
What we’ve observed however, is that there is a common phenomenon in communities, especially when there is a diversity of backgrounds, where some members may feel like they don’t belong. For instance, boarder parents may feel like they are second rate members missing out versus day parents and visa versa. Or those parents that don’t speak English as their first language may feel the community isn’t for them.
Whatever the reason, the simple action of welcoming each member into your community can resolve this crisis. Because it provides evidence that they are in fact ‘insiders’. They don’t even have to reply for this to have a positive impact. Take it a step further and invite new parents to a casual coffee online for instance, you’re starting to cement their sense of commitment.
Writing your welcome parents message
The most successful welcome messages comprise three elements, they are: personal, purposeful and precise. Now let’s talk through each of these.
If you are using Classlist’s welcome parents feature, your message will come from your personal account automatically. It’s useful however, to highlight your role in the community. Whether it’s PTA Chair, Rep or staff member with pastoral responsibility. Also if you are comfortable with sharing some information about yourself you will find they and others will reciprocate. A consequential bonus – a potential new friend!
Share your school community’s purpose in a brief sentence. This is an opportunity to inspire new joiners. And that their contribution is valuable. For ideas how to set out and articulate your purpose click on the link here.
Remember, your new member is likely to receive this as a notification on their phone. So try to keep your message short. Check out examples of welcome messages (anonymised) below.
Here are two examples. When you are crafting your message try to take into account the three P’s. Exclude the headings in your final version obviously!
Personal: Welcome to [Insert Name] School! I am [Insert Name of Association] Chair and I have children in Year Y and Reception.
Purpose: As parents we all want to support our children in their educational journey. As a school parent committee we work collaboratively to support the school through many events such as the school fun day, school discos and the annual summer ball. We also strive to build an all-inclusive, friendly, communicative parent environment. These strange times mean that the year ahead will obviously be very different, however with the introduction of Classlist we hope to bring the school community closer than ever!
Precise: We look forward to making you feel part of our friendly community.
Personal: Wishing you a very warm welcome! I am the [Name of Association] VP of Communications. I’m originally from Canada and have a son in Class Y and a daughter in Class B.
Purpose: Our [Name of School] presence on Classlist is run by parents for parents so that we can be connected – whether it be to ask for builder recommendations, discuss Covid, send a personal message to a particular parent or anything else. There are various groups to join depending on whether your child is a day student or a boarder, whether you live locally, London or overseas and a parent business network.
Precise: I hope you find the app a useful way to connect with the wider [Name of School] parent Community.
Just go to your school profile page on Classlist to ensure every new joiner receives your personalised welcome parents message. If you need help check out our help page in our knowledge centre.
For more school community trends click on the link here.