Summer time is the season for principals to craft a new version of the student handbook. This is a time honored tradition as eagerly anticipated as the annual trip to the dentist. The student handbook seems to be updated and revised every year as new state laws and new societal situations impact our schools. Like the Iphone a new one is needed each year or it will no longer be compatible with new situations.
Perhaps this year a section will need to be added about transgender students or about procedures in case of a school shooting. Regardless of what is added, as principals it’s something that needs to be done regularly. These five tips will help yours be awesome, or at least as awesome as a student handbook can be. :-D
Write from one student/parent perspective
Imagine and pick one parent as your avatar. This would be your typical parent that you want to inform of your most relevant school policies. By focusing on a single archetypical parent your writing will be more focused. If we try to write for every type of parent we could find ourselves with an overdone, unwieldy piece of writing.
Short and Sweet
By short I mean concise and focused. You still want all your policies in there but cutting and editing it down to the most essential components is necessary. A good idea if you want to expand on certain issues or give scenarios is to provide a link or QR code for more information. With the ever shorter attention spans this is a great way to have a hard copy of the essentials as well as a way to get more information out there as needed.
Research other handbooks
Don’t reinvent the wheel! There are many examples of handbooks that you can check out online. Facebook is also a great source if you’re a part of a principals' group. Every group that I am a part of is very supportive.
Attention to Detail
Being short and sweet does not mean leave that important information out. Make sure things like the school address and phone number are correct. Even your own number. I accidently put my cell phone number in a version and only noticed after the first copy was printed.
I’s and T’s
This falls easily in the realm of attention to detail. Usually we’re doing this thing on our own during the summer. If you can, have someone give it a good once over. Put it aside for a day and come back to with fresh eyes. Review it in reverse. These are great ways to avoid the trap of glazed eyed rereading. Also, double check to make sure what you have aligns with your board policies and can be backed up if you get push back from that one parent.
These 5 simple steps; having a single avatar, keeping it concise, using exemplars, attention to detail and making sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s can support you in writing an awesome student handbook.
What is your writing process for a student handbook? Share your tips in the comment section below.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......