Newsletters have long been a tool for school counselors to share information with stakeholders. From upcoming events to community resources, newsletters help us connect with families and colleagues. But as we moved back into buildings in the fall of 2020, it was clear that doing things the way they’d always been done was no longer going to work. Connecting through newsletters needed to adapt to the times and the bigger role technology was playing in education. Our school counseling team decided to meet our community where they were, through their screens, by taking our newsletter digital.
One of the first things to tackle when developing a newsletter is to select your target audience. How many times have you told someone what you do as a school counselor and they replied that they had no idea school counselors did so much or that they thought school counselors only handled student schedules? As school counselors, we work really hard but sometimes people don’t realize just how much we’re doing and how essential our work really is to the overall school community. You can promote upcoming events, share resources and make connections with parents, students, and staff. A parent newsletter helps them see the impact of the counseling department on their student’s growth and development. Creating a newsletter for staff allows staff to see the connection between the classroom and the counseling office. And a newsletter for students can provide them with coping techniques and strategies or information about upcoming events.
A great place to begin with a newsletter is sharing upcoming important dates and resources in the community. But a digital newsletter can do so much more. Incorporating articles, videos and website links into a digital newsletter transforms it into an interactive portal of information. Images and videos are attention grabbers and are a great way to incorporate SEL skills and tools. The newsletter can bring new focus to the mental health of students, equip teachers with techniques and activities related to socioemotional learning and provide strategies to students for coping with obstacles. Although finding content might seem overwhelming at first, it can come in many forms such as sharing professional newsletters or social media accounts of other school counselors. And don’t forget to look even closer to home. Sometimes students will provide the best ideas or point your focus in the right direction.
In a world of TikTok and Instagram, even parents and staff have adapted to smaller bites of information.
Sending a newsletter full of text and words might mean information is only glanced at before readers move on to things that seem more engaging. One key in grabbing attention is making the newsletter colorful, bright and image based. Platforms like GoogleSlides, Canva and S’more help create visually appealing newsletters people want to interact with. These tools also can help keep content organized and concise. People are less likely to scroll, so limiting information to one screen or slide worth of information keeps focus on the most important information.
Taking the time to put together a newsletter might feel like just one more thing to add onto an already full plate, but you can use strategies to make it more manageable. Newsletters can be sent weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Whichever you choose can still make an impact. Another strategy is to partner with other counselors. Partnering with a neighboring school can cut the work in half by taking turns on creating the newsletter. Consider creating a folder to save articles and links from emails; then, when it’s time to compile your newsletter, you have resources you know you enjoyed without having to search for them.
The big question is: Do newsletters work and are they worth the time and effort? We say absolutely and had an amazing experience to prove it. One day while walking down the hall, a teacher asked if she could give me a high five. While she’s a positive person, it was still more than expected when simply passing one another. Later that day, another staff member asked if giving a high five was okay. I then remembered that the latest school counselor newsletter for staff was about connecting with students through physical connection like high fives and handshakes. It included ways to make sure students were comfortable as COVID-19 protocols were easing. Clearly, the newsletter was working! What more do we wish for as educators than for the content we share to not only be taken in but to be put into actual practice? If that experience isn’t an endorsement for newsletters, we don’t know what is!