At the beginning of the year, Melissa and I spend a lot of time building relationships and creating a meaningful community on team. We nurture those relationships and that climate throughout the year. Most years, it snowballs into a wonderful year for all of the kids. Former students come back years later and talk about how seventh grade was their best school year ever. We love hearing that because it validates what we are trying to build each year.
One of the digital tools that we are using this year to help with community-building is Tagboard. The tool is designed to collect all references to a particular hashtag online and deliver it to one stream that can be embedded in a blog, on a website, etc. We have embedded our Tagboard stream on all of our blogs including our team blog, the place where parents and students go for assignments, updates and information about our team and school. By glancing through our Tagboard stream, we can see all kinds of cool things that are going on.
We are now encouraging parents and students to contribute to our Tagboard. The idea is that if a kid is doing something cool outside of school, we'd like to know about it. Those activities in the past have ranged from baseball leagues, ice skating competitions, Irish dancing in Ireland, volleyball tournaments, community plays, writing awards, Indian dance classes, etc. There are so many things these kids are involved in that we never hear about and Tagboard can help us keep up with all of them. Our hope is that parents (and students) will Tweet (or whatever social media tool they use) some of their kids' community events using the team hashtag so that all of us can see the variety of cool things that our students and classmates are doing. We think it will go a long way toward getting to know the kids better and building an even stronger community.