We accept what we walk past
Open your eyes
Let me give you a scenario: It’s Monday morning. Imagine you’re pulling into the car park at school. You’re in your usual routine of grabbing your bags, locking the car, walking to the doors, possibly thinking ahead to all the tasks that need to be done that day. In fact, you’re so used to the ‘usual’ that you don’t notice the dirty marks on the walls and the frayed, dated posters and leaflets on the walls in the foyer.
Walking in front of you, a parent is making their way towards Reception. She turns and acknowledges you with a nod towards the walls: ‘I know a really good decorator if you need one. I’ll give you their number if you like.’
A lesson learned…it’s so easy to just accept our surroundings because we have been used to them for a long time.
Are you too immersed in the ‘every day’? Have you closed your eyes to your environment? Your visitors’ eyes are… wide open.
Our experiences as visitors
At various times in our lives, we have all stepped through the doors of a school as a visitor. Our experiences would have been many and varied and our first impressions would have been formulated by the appearance of the reception area, or foyer.
Behind closed doors the school is operating as a business, working extremely hard to make sure their students have the best education they can provide. They really care for the welfare of their students, which should be applauded.
However, would another service provider, or industry, allow their reception area to look uncared for? The answer is undoubtedly ‘no’, because their visitor experience would have a direct impact on their business. So, why should our schools be any different?
Is following the curriculum and focusing purely on the teaching and learning affecting the perception of your building?
Look through a visitor’s eyes
User experience is a huge part of many industries. The same lessons can be applied to the visitor experience at your school.
What would you like visitors to see when they arrive?
How would you like them to feel?
What can you do to achieve this?
Those students of yours, they know a thing or two about design and what ‘works’… maybe more than you. Why not tap into their creativity? Let them show you how they would like their school to be seen by visitors.
Even the most hardened student, deep down, has pride in their school and would feel included in the decision-making process.
So, why is it so important?
Let’s go back to the scenario at the start – the conversation would never have happened if the entrance area was clean, fresh and welcoming. It would have saved some embarrassment, too.
Visitors form judgements about our schools, about the quality of the organisation, our abilities to educate students to a high standard, and whether they think we, as visitors, are important to them. Arriving at a dirty, drab reception area with uncomfortable chairs, or worse still no chairs, sends a clear message that we aren’t really that welcome.
So, make sure that your visitors’ judgements are positive ones.
The welcome that we receive stays with us. The welcome we receive ripples into our communities. Your reputation needs to be upheld.
It isn’t just down to you to improve the perception of your building. Everyone from the students, the staff and visitors to your school, should help to nurture the sense of the culture of the environment you all share.
As the playwright J.B.Priestley once said, “we all have a collective responsibility towards each other” and this is as true today as it has always been.
So, how can you instil a sense of the culture of your organisation into all of the stakeholders? By creating inviting and welcoming spaces, you will be giving a clear message that this is an establishment that cares about the people who walk through its doors. In turn, students, staff and visitors find it much easier to absorb themselves into a positive culture, as they feel a sense of belonging to a place they really want to be a part of.
You just have to take a look outside of education, to large corporations like Facebook, The BBC and Pixar, to name a few, who go to great expense to create inviting, inspirational areas within their buildings. It sends a clear message about how they value people who interact with their organisations, by creating a caring, nurturing culture. Aim to leave your visitors with a lasting impression that they will talk about for years to come.
The value of creating a positive, welcoming culture cannot be accurately measured, but the cost of not addressing it can be vast.
Can you afford to ignore it?