Parents Choose Other Parents:
Giving Prospective Parents a Taste of the Jewish Day School Community
by Irene Lehrer Sandalow and Miriam Brosseau
When I pick a coffee shop to spend several hours getting in some uninterrupted work time, I look not only for great coffee but great people; a barista who remembers my name or favorite order, or a friendly smile from a fellow cappuccino-drinker, tapping madly away at her laptop. If we look at those that will be our peers at a coffee shop – a short-term commitment – how much more so for parents choosing a Jewish day school!
Often the first step for parents in researching a school is checking out the school’s website. They will likely find:
- Pictures of the smiley, happy children – check
- Bios of the staff – check
- A general video about the school – check
- A mission and vision of the school – check
- A message from the Head of School – …and check
With all this information and visuals, parents still don’t know anything about the school’s parent community, the peers with whom they will be sharing the experiences of the next several years.
“Recognizing that for some parents the selection of a school for their child can be a moment of profound self-definition – perhaps one of the weightiest of their adult lives – there has been increasing recognition that parents not only play a role in their children’s schools, but that their children’s schools play some roles in their lives.” (“Parents Under the Influence: Thinking Differently about the Relationships Between Parents and Their Children’s Schools” by Alex Pompson)
Prospective parents want to know who they will sit with at parent volunteer events and who they will be hanging out with during their children’s play dates. But most importantly these are the parents with whom they will envision and discuss the values they want to impart to their children. How do we give these parents a taste of the parent community?
Introducing: The Parents
Simon Sinek, leader in the field of inspiration, writes: “Stories are attempts to share our values and beliefs. Story telling is only worthwhile when it tells what we stand for, not what we do.”
Who is best to share stories about a Jewish day school than the parents themselves? We need to get out of the way and let the parents speak. Parents are authentic voices, and authenticity sells. People trust in people – not brands or institutions. There are many ways a school can offer prospective parents the opportunity to learn more about the parent community they might be joining. How are the parents involved in the school? What programs or events are they organizing? What organizations and communities do they affiliate with?
On your website and in your social media spaces, the school can feature parents representing the diversity of the school’s community, sharing their “aha” or proud moments that affirmed that their decision to choose this school for them was the right one. The key is to give the parents a platform to share their stories.
Video as a Tool for Story Telling
Videos are a great way, even with a shoe-string budget, to give prospective parents a glimpse of the community they might be joining. Video testimonials can show, rather than tell, what parents value about the school and what the schools stand for. On video you can capture the enthusiasm, the energy, and the unique personalities of your day school parents. Equipped with a flip cam or even your cell phone, school staff can ask the current day school parents to talk about their family’s experience at the school. (And no, you don’t necessarily need special equipment. Full length feature film Olive was shot 100% on a cell phone and was a contender for the Oscars.)
Shooting and editing video has become increasingly easier and more accessible with free and low-cost software. Not ready to jump in, or don’t have the time? Many high school and college students are very comfortable editing video and are happy to be called on for their skills.
Here’s an example: this video is about two parents from the Solomon Schechter School School of Queens. In addition to talking about why they chose this school for their children, they discussed a charity they founded with their children:
As a parent myself, when I watched this video, I saw
- Parents who are intelligent, articulate and warm
- Parents who care about creativity and innovation
- Parent committed to Jewish tradition and teaching the nuances and complexities of our tradition
- Parents who are involved in their children’s education
- Parents who want to nurture intellectual curiosity of their children and encourage them to engage with the world around them
More importantly, after watching this video I felt that I want and could belong to their community.
Videos like this one can become the centerpiece of a broader campaign to engage prospective parents. That larger social media campaign might include:
- Highlighting the video on the school’s website, and perhaps adding a “Meet Our Parents” section where parents of both current students and school alumni can be featured
- Empowering current parents to share the video on Facebook or Twitter, tagging their friends and amplifying the message out into new networks
- Showing the video at an in-person gathering, perhaps as part of an open house or board meeting
- Using quotes from the video (shared as images, or alongside screenshots from the video itself) as conversation starters, or jumping-off points for subsequent blog posts or other online conversations
- And whatever else you can dream up!
(Note, though, that creating the video on its own is only one piece of the puzzle. Just as you wouldn’t buy furniture for a house before laying a foundation and putting up walls, plan the campaign first. Then design rich, engaging content that shows off both your school and its parent community.)
Parents choose other parents. Let’s help more of those parents see what makes Jewish day schools the vibrant communities they are!
How does your school give a taste of the parent community?
We’re excited to hear your ideas and examples in the comments.
Looking for more tips on how to get this started with parent videos? Check out these great resources from See3/ Darim Online. These short videos will give you some ideas, and tips to make video testimonials as easy as possible. And for more on how to highlight parent voices on behalf of your school, take a look at the Parent to Parent blog, and be in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to continue the conversation!