In August, I went cold-turkey and informed my teachers that I would not be sending mass emails this year. I briefly touched on how inefficient email is as a one-to-many communication tool and most nodded along as they’ve all fallen victim to the “TMI” of a colleague who uses “reply all” to share that they wouldn’t make the faculty meeting because they’d been having stomach cramps all day.
As with the introduction of anything completely new, I explained to them the trade-off I was willing to make. My school was functioning under an intense “culture of meetings” that, in my opinion, was a little excessive. I committed to them to cut down on meeting times, but the trade-off was that all “FYI” items — without exception — would be posted on a private staff blog and that they were responsible for checking it every day.
Knowing that there would still be some for whom this was uncomfortable, I enabled a “subscribe by email” button at the top of the page. This meant that it was up to each individual to subscribe if they wanted to continue to receive school news via email. For me, this meant that I still only had to post in one place.
As a last bit of insurance, I worked with our school technologist to ensure that our staff blog was the browser start-up page on teacher computers. This means that it’s staring them in the face every time they open their browsers.
The benefits of the staff blog as I have seen them unfold this year are:
Information is archived. How many emails do you get from staff who absent-mindedly deleted that email with the attachment they needed? I’ve been guilty of this myself! On the blog, everything is categorized and archived by month so the assembly schedule we used in October is still there when we need it again in January.
Information is searchable. Technically, email is searchable, too, but if you’ve ever used FirstClass as your email client you’ll know that this is less than ideal. Plus, with the small mailbox sizes we are allocated, and the wonky way FC duplicates emails when you reply or forward, people tend to delete stuff.
Comments are way more efficient than emailing. This one was a bit unexpected, but it’s probably the biggest benefit. Say you post about an upcoming event and you omit an important piece of information. If you had emailed it, you’d get 10 or 15 emails asking for clarification and you’d have to either reply to each one or send one of those, “Oops! I’m sorry I forgot to tell you that Friday’s dance has an 80s theme…” emails. On the blog, one person asks the question in the comments and I can answer it once,
Overall, I think this has been a successful experiment. I think one of the primary reasons is that I articulated the purpose clearly as a reduction in wasted meeting time. Also, the cold-turkey approach was the only way to go. I don’t think this would have worked as effectively had I continued to send emails and post on the blog.
It didn’t take long for the hold-outs to come around when there was something they didn’t know about. I overheard more than one conversation along the lines of, “How did you know about [whatever]?”
“It was posted on the blog yesterday. Don’t you check it?”
Also, as with the team blogs, support is critical. This was new for people so hand-holding was critical for some while some were off and running right away. Some people stress out very easily because they “just aren’t good with technology” so it’s critical to support them in the early stages.
At this point in the year, there are four of us who have rights to post on the staff blog. I want to expand this next year to make it even more collaborative and to reinforce it as the “one-stop shop” for all things school related.