The “Burger King” Strategy

You know their slogan. Have it …

The main idea of the “Burger King” strategy is to serve up exactly what your families want. Whatever the need is, you provide the solution. Whatever question they have, you provide the answer.*

“Super-Dad, Super-Mom” Strategy

It is tough for parents these days. Many are questioning if they are even a “good” parent. Another family engagement idea is to provide workshops that support parents, sharing what’s working for families during COVID-19. Empower them. Help them get back their swagger. 

In addition to sharing practical pandemic parenting tips, encourage your parents. 

Below is a 2-minute encouraging video I sent out to leaders on the topic of grace. It tells the story of a mom who felt like she was failing, when in reality she was doing just fine given the reality of being spread thin. 

“Game Show” Strategy

Game shows are fun! 

Personally, I’ve enjoyed watching Family Feud since I was a wee lad. Now that Steve Harvey has been the host, it’s even better (unless it’s a skit on SNL).

It doesn’t matter the game show, but I challenge you to pick a game show that you love and adapt it to a virtual environment for your community. Own it. The cornier the better. Ask questions that are specific to your community, teachers, students, and families. Have fun with what people win.

If you put tremendous creative energy into this, it will pay off. 

And for your viewing pleasure, below is a video of Family Feud on SNL starring the late, great Chadwick Boseman (RIP #WakandaForever).

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“Zen Den” Strategy

Humans are stressed to the max during the pandemic. During the mastermind, we sometimes start with a minute of mindfulness. This is not a religious practice, but a science-based approach to increased productivity, better work-life balance, and a reduction in stress. Personally, I have experienced better focus and believe my meditation practice has helped me be more present and a more active listener. It’s also a great way to hit pause and recenter myself when I’m off. What a gift to give your parents!

Many communities probably have a mindfulness teacher or yoga instructor who would be glad to lead your parents in a family engagement activity centered on wellness. If those experts don’t exist, turn to YouTube and share your screen.

“Pen Pal” Strategy

Back-in-the-day it was common to have a pen pal that lived on the other side of the nation or in a different county. This activity helped not only develop writing skills, but it encouraged an appreciation of different cultures as well as fostered new relationships.

In a COVID-19 reality many of us are experiencing withdrawal from basic human connectedness. I believe the “Pen Pal” strategy would be a fun family engagement activity to offer. Here’s how to do it — gather your parents online. Tell them to bring five postcards and something to write with. Next instruct them to identify five people they want to reconnect with from their personal or professional lives or people they want to express gratitude to. For example, I might write to my friend Phil Holler who I lived with for multiple years in undergrad and graduate school. We lost touch when I moved overseas and it would be great to reconnect. If I wrote a gratitude postcard I might choose Mr. Brogan, who was like a second dad to me. 

After explaining the point of the “Pen Pal” strategy, set the timer for 20 minutes. Tell parents they can leave their cameras on or turn them off and that you’ll play some music during the next 20 minutes while they write their pen pals. After the 20 minutes, put parents in breakout rooms and share who they were writing to and why. I guarantee that families will appreciate this activity and the positivity that you generate will be long lasting.  

“DIY” Strategy

Now that we’ve been stuck at home for so long DIY projects are very popular. I acknowledge that there is a need for resources to reinvent what your home looks like, but budget-minded folks can be creative too. One family engagement idea I have is for community interior decorators (professionals or aspiring designers) to hold workshops for parents to create environments for both themselves and their children conducive for working from home. 

I’m super proud of my sister who redesigned her guest bedroom (no one is visiting anytime soon!) and turned it into my nephews’ hybrid school-station. They had the space and resources to create a quiet space where the boys could focus on their work. I admit this is an ideal situation and schools would have to get creative for how to serve and encourage families that don’t have the economic means to implement this vision. I do think there is a creative solution there.

Not pictured: the other side of the room with some bean bags, another desk, and a tent set up as a “calming station” for the younger of the two nephews.

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“Media Company” Strategy

Modern schools need to embrace that they are media companies. Social media has transformed how we consume content and not only is content king — video is on top.

The “Media Company” strategy challenges schools to produce media content that will engage their families. 

Start interviewing your staff and students to capture the best stories happening in your community. This could be produced through a blog, vlog, or podcast. 

What if you started a Humans of NY style instagram account? Snap a simple pic and write a wonderful story of the staff, student, or family portrayed.

Why not write a fictional tale that goes on throughout the year and the actors, directors, writers are the students? What would you create?

Note: this doesn’t have to mean more work for you. Put this out to the staff, the community, and of course the students and let them take the lead.

As far as a family engagement activity, what would your families create if they had to tell their story answering a specific prompt. Here are 5 example prompts a family might answer collectively, but feel free to create your own!

  • The hardest part of the pandemic.
  • What we learned about our family in the past 6 months.
  • We are thankful for …
  • Here is something we wish you knew about our family …
  • Our family switched chores for a week, here’s what happened …

“Positivity” Strategy

This strategy is about gratitude. I have been keeping a gratitude journal since 2015, simply noting three things I am thankful for each morning. The results have been profound on my attitude. 

Let’s face it. 2020 sucks. A powerful reframe of gratitude is an optimal way to make 2020 less sucky. 

The “Positivity” strategy challenges your school to engage your parents by collaboratively working on a gratitude list. 

At the last school where I was principal we had a corkboard near the copy room where staff were encouraged to post inspirational quotes, pictures of positive experiences, and give staff shout-outs. I used to love stopping and reading what the staff had posted on that board. 

In a virtual setting, you can choose your digital tool. My web team has loved working with Miro recently as a whiteboard collaboration tool. Of course you have to monitor what goes on it and possibly clean it up from time-to-time, but from there you can revisit and repurpose what the community shares and present that back during different school events to engage your families. 

The “Positivity” strategy builds on the “Media Company” strategy. If you will commit to finding the best stories embedded in your community and tell them consistently, I promise you will experience an outcome you’ll be proud of. Resist the urge to package the gratitude in a newsletter or something else. Send it out on it’s own. Gratitude is the message.

“Game Night” Strategy

The “Game Night” strategy is just like the “Game Show” strategy except you adapt board games to an online environment. Think again what prizes can be awarded — maybe there is a trophy that travels around the community? Or maybe prizes and winning don’t matter at all? 

I would encourage families to wear their pajamas, bring their favorite snacks, and make some friends while enjoying a board game.

The “Good News” Strategy

In a pre-pandemic school a “good news call of the day” was an increasingly popular strategy innovative principals were using around the world. Everyone knows that often when your principal is calling home it’s because your child has gotten into trouble — this is not good news! So principals around the world flipped the script and committed to finding the good in their students. Staff would nominate students for positive contributions to the school community and the principal would bring that student to the office and call home to tell their parents how wonderful their child was. Some schools would even take a picture with the principal and student and post that in a prominent place in the school and on social media.

My friend, Jessica Cabeen, flipped this idea and turned it into a family engagement activity. Here is how to do the “Good News” Strategy. Bring your parents together and instead of telling them how amazing their children are at school, ask them to contribute how their children have surprised them during the pandemic. What have they learned or what have they done that parents didn’t realize their kids could do? You can take it a step further and ask parents to also share how the staff have been helpful during this time and build on the “Positivity” strategy.

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*I actually used the “Burger King” strategy to create this post. I limit my time on social media because I don’t trust myself and I worry I’ll fall into a rabbit hole and waste too much time where I could have been creating value. 

That said, I use social media for 5 reasons:

  1. Promote my content.
  2. Build and nurture relationships.
  3. See where I can add value using the “Burger King” strategy.
  4. Look at pictures of puppies.
  5. Look at pictures of terrariums.

I do the regular rounds to see what people are asking and how I might help.

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