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Chapter 16 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Develop Strong Public Relations Using the Elementary Classroom

Public relations is an area of schooling in which teachers are not always well versed. This chapter offers practical suggestions for using the classroom to develop a strong public relations program. Children are the best public relation agents a teacher could possibly hope to employ. Promoting a happy atmosphere in the classroom, along with creating an environment that is conducive to learning will result in favorable comments from the children when they speak of their classroom and their teacher. The teacher is the first to know if a child is doing well in school. Writing a postcard or letter to parents informing them of their childs accomplishments promotes positive human relations. Praise the child, mentioning him by name rather than saying your child, your son, or your daughter. The letters do not have to be lengthy, but they must be personal, distinctive, sincere, truthful, and honest. Avoid sending negative letters. If something negative must be said, telephone parents and schedule a conference. Only strong, positive letters must be sent to parents. Appreciative letters sent to parents make children happier in school. Sometimes parents believe their child has or has not accomplished certain goals during the year. Questionnaires designed to provide teachers with feedback can be drafted and sent home to be completed by parents. Invite parents to the classroom to observe classes for a day. Be sure to allow time before they leave to talk with them and reflect upon what they observed. This will give parents a positive feeling about their childs school and teacher. Keep the following two thoughts in mind when writing letters to parents: 1. Is this letter good for the child and parents and is it good for the school? 2. Is the letter a positive reflection on the classroom and school? If these two questions can be answered Yes, a teachers professional judgment in sending the letter is probably on target. Remember to secure permission from the 44

school principal before sending letters to parents. Many times parents come directly to the classroom to pick up their children for dental, doctor, or other appointments. In such instances, insist that the parents report first to the school office to fill out a record indicating they have picked up their child and are assuming the responsibility of taking them home. Misunderstandings result from such enforcements can be avoided if parents understand the rules under which the school operates. A friendly letter sent to parents explaining the standard operating procedures of the elementary school fosters good relations between parents and teacher. Preparing special bulletin detailing important school events and sending these to parents also prevents misunderstandings between parents and the school. Designing and sending a monthly newsletter to parents helps to develop more of a connection between the home and school. Local television stations often would be happy to cover positive news stories about ceremonies and projects at the school or in a specific classroom. Going a step further, developing partnerships with local radio and television stations, if organized properly, are shown to have mutually beneficial rewards. For example, a local radio or television station may donate up-to-date print and non-print materials to the school's library instructional center. This could be announced and made into a media related, news worthy story. Reach out to businesses in developing involvement types of relations. This exchange could net educational materials or cash donations to the school for classroom supplies or equipment as businesses publicize their involvement in proactively helping with the academic success of all students. Study the community and its various organizations to gain a better understanding of the cultural background of students. Learn as much as possible about which youth groups are most active in the community, where recreational activities are located, which church is most predominant in the area, and which business establishments are doing poorly. Visit industrial complexes, and talk with business people. Seize the opportunity to have individuals in the community talk to students. Elicit suggestions from community leaders on what they think should be emphasized in the classroom. 45

This information will afford a better understanding of the character of the community. Having good relationships between the teacher, business, and industrial organizations is important, especially when field excursions are being planned. When meeting with members of the community, whether they be happy or dissatisfied with the school, talk with them and not at them. Become an active and sincere listener. As a representative of the school system, as well as the teaching profession, the teacher must understand the value of communicating with people in the community. Be aware of community resources. If properly used, these resources will strengthen the schools relationship with the community. Further information can be obtained form the Chamber of Commerce, public health service, law enforcement officers, and other civic organizations. All available resources must be tapped. Suggest to the principal that school facilities be offered for community use. For example, the gym and athletic fields could be used for adult education programs, the library could be made available for adults during the week. Teachers could offer their services for supervision purposes or perhaps stop by the library to interact with parents. If community residents are allowed to use the school facilities, they will realize the value of the school and will want to protect their investment. Suggestions for developing and maintaining human and public relations have been integrated throughout this book. It is highly recommended that teachers take the time to review them, underlining or circling those passages in each chapter. Use personal creativity to develop other public relations techniques and begin now to practice these techniques in order to nourish relationships among children, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. A Thought in Words Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. Alfred Lord Tennyson Locksley Hall