It can be very difficult to get all cluster schools to keep in regular contact and to respond to emails. Here are some ideas on how to improve the situation.

  1. Collect all names and email addresses for the staff in each school and use your email programme to create email groups for each school. Do the same for the principals and lead teacher groups. Making email groups for special interest areas is also useful. For example, I do this with my conference groups, or with my interactive whiteboard users.
  2. Keep the number of emails to a minimum and make sure that the content is necessary when you do send one out.
  3. The subject is important to make clear, but more important is the first visible part of your email. If I haven't established the purpose or importance of the message in the first few lines, some of my people will read no further.
  4. Make sure that all agendas for meetings are sent out at least one week ahead of time.
  5. Highlight the key phrases in your emails by changing their colour and increasing their size.
  6. Use online tools such as wikis and blogs to publish information to. See this Teacher Portal wiki as an example.
  7. Consider publishing a cluster newsletter with dates for the term and other key information as well as articles about what is happening around the cluster. You can access all my newsletters from last year by clicking here . I started off writing these myself but this year the schools are going to take turns contributing. I had three schools volunteer to add to our first March issue (February was too busy!)
  8. Design a logo for your cluster to give you an identity when communicating both within and outside of your cluster. I tried to hold a cluster logo competition around the cluster but only one school really got involved. I took two of the kids designs and combined ideas from both of them to create the final design.
  9. Use of email receipts is sometimes useful. At the very least receipts tell you that the email got to the recipients machine. If you don't receive a receipt, that's a signal to follow up with a phone call.
  10. A number of schools will operate in tightly (perhaps overly) controlled environments, with things like attachments being blocked, or emails with images being dropped, or a full conversion to "plain text" occuring. Some schools operate with ALL of these in place, which means you have no means of getting your beautifully designed messages, sparkling images or essential templates out to the people that matter. I have worked with my Lead Teachers in these cases to ensure there is one address I can be certain WILL allow everything I send through, and that it WILL be checked on a daily basis.
  11. Respond to queries quickly. Immediacy tells people you are on the job and that you care!
  12. For important or difficult stuff, some facilitators have a priority communication sequence:
    Face to face then...
    Voice to voice (phone) then...
    Email to email.
    Face to face is always best when negotiating the tricky ground or dealing with a negative situation. If you have to resolve a crisis by email, critically reflect on the words you have used before you press that "Send" button!
  13. Genuine thank-yous and notes of appreciation soon after a visit or event do so much to prepare the ground for your next communication or event.