In many ways, creating a Graduate Profile is the easy part. It can be accomplished with limited input from representative stakeholders that reflect diverse voices across the district and community. Operationalizing a Graduate Profile is substantially more challenging, as it requires engaging all stakeholders, encouraging them to embrace and support the Graduate Profile as the North Star — guiding learning and development for each and every student, both in and out of school. In many ways a Graduate Profile is designed to shift expectations about what students should know and be able to do and shift mindsets about where, when, and how student learning takes place.
Given that expectation, communications becomes a central feature of any strategy to operationalize a Graduate Profile. While communicating consistent and persistent messages to teachers, administrators, and other school and district staff is primary, the communication strategy also must extend to the larger community, including families, community and civic partners, support providers, business and industry leaders, nearby postsecondary institutions, and more. If we agree that learning happens any time, anywhere, then the Graduate Profile outcomes must be fostered in school, at home, and in the community.
REACHING AND ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
A communications plan should include consistent messaging, like a drumbeat, across the community. It helps if the Graduate Profile is:
- Publicly displayed in multiple languages in the community (i.e., city buildings, cafes) as well as in school and district offices and classrooms
- Highlighted routinely in district communications collateral, including brochures, website, reports, plans, events, and more
Referenced in day-to-day conversations among all stakeholders, including those among teachers, families, and students
- A central driver for decision-making, as evidenced by its role in board presentations as well as school- and district-level discussions about programs, curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
When a communication strategy is effective, all stakeholders (students, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members) will be able to clearly articulate why the Graduate Profile is important, what they are doing to support it, and how they have advanced/achieved the outcomes articulated in the Profile. An effective communication strategy also will regularly report on progress and challenges and showcase and celebrate examples of students demonstrating the sought-after skills, competencies, and mindsets.
Creating and pursuing a high level communication plan may seem straightforward, but a winning strategy will simultaneously humanize the work by recognizing that change can be scary. Nothing is more critical during times of change and transition than effective communication. Research has found that the communication that matters the most in times of change is the communication that employees receive from their leaders. After all, school staff are the messengers to students, families, and community members. They are the “feet on the ground,” so to speak.
According to William Bridges’ influential book Managing Transitions, one of the best ways leaders can effectively deal with the normal anxiety that’s brought on by change, as well as accelerate the transition process of their team is to thoroughly explain “The Four Ps,” which are:
Why are we doing this? What problem are we solving? What are we trying to accomplish? People often need to understand the logic of a change before they can change.
By providing information about the four Ps in all communications, district leaders can help their team understand why a change is necessary, what it looks like, how they are going to get there, and how they fit in.
Keep in mind that during times of transition, communication isn’t just about sharing information. It’s also about using communication to connect with staff, students, and community stakeholders, letting them know you care and building their commitment to the change.