At school, internal communication often involves disconnected, antiquated methods. Adults share information via emails that can’t be checked during class, random text threads, hall passes, telephones in classrooms, and PA systems guaranteed to disrupt instruction. If you’re an administrator, you may have a walkie-talkie for emergencies.
This hodgepodge reinforces silos and prevents dialogue. It’s not a communication system but a miscommunication system.
Slack transformed the way we viewed ourselves and our school. It took us from a group of individuals to teammates focused on collective goals. We could share successes, commiserate in tough moments, and make adjustments by housing communication in one place.
We leveraged Slack to provide operational information, instructional feedback, updates about kids, and community-building. Our team communicated more, and more quickly, than before. We had eyes and ears everywhere in the building; we were able to highlight what was working and respond to challenges before they became crises; and when there were crises, everyone knew what was occurring and what they needed to do.
Here’s how you can build your own Slack ecosystem to improve communication.
Enhancing Operational Efficiency
First, select a messaging program that works for your team; for us, that meant a Slack workspace. Create different communication channels for various needs (e.g., #6thgrade, #humanities, #admin). Teach your team how and what to message. Invite the right people to the right places to streamline interactions.
Sending a kid to the nurse? Put it on #nurse. Anyone who needs to know why a child is in the hallway and where they’re going can see that info in real time. No more guessing, no more hallway interrogations.
Bathroom stall door broken? Water fountain stopped up with gum? Let the facilities team know on #facilities.
Increasing Professional Development and Collaboration
This type of messaging provides more than just operational support. It allows for a shared experience. It creates constant and transparent communication—all the time.
Use it to share instructional techniques and create new methods of professional development. For example, if you see an effective teaching strategy in a science class, take and share a photo. Type, “Check out this design thinking in Mr. Carroll’s class!” and send it to #science so that other science teachers can view it. Want everyone to see it? Put it on the main communication channel.
Or perhaps a special education teacher has a reading they think would be useful to the team, so they put it in #teamreads. Everyone can read, comment, and ideate.
Teachers can also ask for help: “I’m really struggling to engage Mariah. Anyone having success with that in their space?” or “My lesson on presentations was a flop! Anyone up for talking it through with me so it can be better before the next group?”
For our team, Slack makes it possible to celebrate colleagues—individually or for everyone to see. In our channel #teamwins, we might share, “We see you, Mr. Sweat! Thanks for making sure those girls had quality uniforms for the game!”
Or a direct message for a colleague who doesn’t like the spotlight but appreciates being recognized: “Hey Bianca. Thanks for making those bagged lunches happen on short notice. The day went off without a hitch, and it’s thanks to you.”
Celebrating and Acknowledging Kids’ Realities
This approach to appreciation doesn’t have to be all about the adults. You might celebrate students by sharing call-outs like the following:
- “Hi Team. Talvin came to school on time today. He’s really been struggling with that. Celebrate him big-time when you see him so he knows he’s loved!”
- “Tavon’s grandmother passed away last night. Be mindful, as he may be a bit down today.”
- “Emma’s family just let her know that they are moving next week. You may notice a few differences in her behaviors today.”
Creating A Transparent Workspace
Real-time communication can ensure that each person knows team members are working toward a common goal—even if they can’t see it.
For example, “Hi team. We know Daniel has been struggling today. We wanted to share what we’ve been doing to try to support him and the staff. We’ve let mom know what’s going on, had him meet with the counselor, and are getting him something to eat right now. We will continue to update.”
If you’re incentivizing a student and tracking their progress, make a channel with just their name, and include their teachers: “Hi Team. We’re using #adam to track his progress toward his goals and identify any obstacles. Put any notes here.”
Building Culture And Collegiality
Build culture and community on #random. That’s where teachers share personal thoughts, recommendations, and funny moments (“Anyone see Game of Thrones last night?”)
From the outside, the #random channel—filled with all its joyful nonsense—could be viewed as time-wasting chatter. But truly, it’s bonding. That silly channel is more effective at building a collegial atmosphere than any ropes course or sip-and-paint night.
Create a #makeitbetter channel where each team member can share their good ideas. No bureaucracy to navigate. No emails left unread. No bottleneck to unstick.
“Next year, all field trips should be scheduled for the same day!”
“Transitions have been a challenge on the first floor. Can we get someone to be present during them?”
“Loving the Arts Integration lessons in Mrs. Hunt and Mr. Espinoza’s classes. Can we have them present on the next professional development day?”
Maintaining Connection Consistently
Instant internal messaging can change the way you work. This approach to cross-platform messaging can streamline communication, reduce inefficiencies, enable the sharing of instructional strategies, and democratize leadership.
Using Slack to improve your school communications won’t make your team better. It will allow your team to be at their best because they’ll have more information, awareness, support, and voice. They’ll know that they’re surrounded by teammates striving for the same goals. They’ll see the school ecosystem instead of just their space within it.