The school year is like a three act play (or two act, or four act – depending on the number of terms/semesters in the school calendar). The time leading up to the opening night on day one of school sets the scene. The producer of this annual performance needs to make sure everyone is coming to the event with enthusiasm and anticipation. The producer of the school year is the School Principal. Is that you?
To set the scene and create expectation, the Principal communicates with parents, and shares that same eager anticipation.
To do this, the Principal will write a Welcome Back Letter.
What to include in the letter?
The Principal wants the letter read. So the question is, what will the parents want to read?
Students returning to school, or beginning at a new school will want to be reassured. They will want to feel confident that the school will match their investment in time and effort. They will want to know that their child will be safe and cared, they will want to know that they will receive special attention whenever they want it.
They will want a close connection with the school and their people, and they want that to start straight away.
How can the Welcome Back Letter make certain of this?
The Welcome Back Letter needs to tell a story. And the story needs to connect with the reader. Tell a story about your first day of school; tell a story about your own child’s first day of school. Talk about another teacher’s first day of school, how they are feeling, how they have been welcomed to the new school. Tell a story about how it felt to start a new job. Tell about what you have found are the best ways to make people feel comfortable in their new job, and feel confident that they can participate without fear.
Many Welcome Back Letters(WBL’s) I have read provide advice to parents on their responsibilities to the school. I wonder if this really connects with the audience. Hmm. I don’t think so.
Many WBL’s outline the Principal’s great plans for the school year. Interesting and worthy, but not really suited to this communication piece – better to put it on the school website.
So, tell a story. Here is one that I have used.
Day One of any journey is an exciting anxious one.
My first child has been to four different schools in his first years of schooling – we moved around a fair bit. I helped him carry his bag in to his most recent new school in 2016. The bag was heavy and overloaded. We presumed that the teacher wanted all 20 exercise books to arrive on the first day of school. We got lost finding the classroom, we didn’t know anyone. But pretty soon someone could see that we were lost and helped as find the right classroom. The room was bustling, kids were greeting each other and friendships seemed to be set. My son was new and looked both scared and brave.
He struggled in with his bursting bag, moving to the back without too much purpose. But his new teacher was there, getting involved. The teacher greeted us with such welcoming words and provided such clear direction on what to do next, that my son’s fear was gone. The teacher gave the job of one of the boys to look after my son on Day One. I could see that my son’s day was now set, and after only 5 minutes, he was settled. A connection had been made, the day started to happen and the journey began.
I collected my son at the end of the school day, and of course, when I saw him coming out of his new class with his newly emptied bag, he had a trail of new friends behind, wanting to come and hang out at our place.
Dear parent, we will make sure your child enjoys their school journey with us from Day One, as well.
Your School Principal”