Telling the Story of Your School in Uncertain Times

Since the beginning of time, the human species has used words and pictures to tell stories. These stories enable us to make sense of our world. They identify our place in space and time; stories, as someone once put it, offer us a deciphering mechanism that literally creates meaning out of the chaos.

At the International School of Brussels, my job is to tell the story of my school and help people find their place in that story. If you like, I - and the people in my team - tell stories to help people make sense of our school.

We believe that traditional ways of communicating about learning - through curriculum manuals and cliche-filled websites - are hard for people to understand. We believe that many parents don?t really know what learning looks like in schools, so end up choosing a school for their children in the same way that I buy a car. I don?t really understand how a car works, so I often end up buying it based on its colour or whether it has a bluetooth connection to my phone.

As educational leaders, our job is to tell stories of learning that help families join the dots in ways that really make sense. Our job is to provide them with stories that engage in a meaningful way. Our job is to find simplicity in the complexity; to throw away our cliches; to find the words that truly express what we value and what we believe about how our children think, learn and grow.

In times such as these, with COVID-19 impacting schools around the world, we are all trying to make sense of what is happening. More than ever before, we are required to tell stories that bring simplicity out of the complexity. As leaders, we need to create stories of hope and courage that inspire new ways of seeing the world.

The story of our schools is changing. Many of us are facing unprecedented challenges. One of the most important aspects of the art of storytelling, however, is the way in which good stories not only describe reality - they create it. Good stories help us see beyond the here and now and envision a new reality, just the other side of the horizon.

I often say to people that the best school websites are those that describe what a school is and what it wants to be. Now is the time, I believe, to find those words of hope that can be built into tales that will inspire, clarify and envision a new and exciting future for our schools.

Image source-A part of the presentation made by Dr. Willows during his ABEA Masterclass on 25th May 2020
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Dr. David Willows
Director of Advancement,
International School of Brussels,

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