Before there was #rstories17, there was #rstories13. We launched this hashtag to crowdsource for our student-created admissions storybook during the 2013-14 school year. In addition to collecting photos on social media around monthly themes, three sections of AP English Langauge and Composition and two Graphic Design classes developed theme, design, taglines, text, and layout for the book. Here's what we said about the project as it went online in August 2013.
This is going to be a year of slow-cooked storytelling.
This year, the School is creating a new viewbook to share our story to prospective families and the broader community. And we are trying something different. The broad premise is that if we are educating students to tell their own stories and make meaning of their lives, this—their daily experience, their education, their Randolph journey, their deepening understanding of who they are and what they can do—is their story.
Much has changed since the creation of our current viewbook in 2010. We have settled into the Garth Campus and gone through the process of developing the strategic plan, writing an educational philosophy, being reaccredited, creating a new schedule and embarking on the search for a new Head. The vision of the School’s strategic plan reflects a pedagogical shift towards developing lifelong learning skills. A new schedule, which supports collaboration, underscores our desire to provide students with an unparalleled experience.
And much remains the same: academic rigor, deep and abiding relationships, extraordinary opportunities, a culture of high expectations and an exceptional teaching and learning environment.
In creating the last viewbook, we followed the lead of our consultant, Ian Symmonds. The communications firm we engaged to produce the viewbook did additional focus groups with parents, faculty and students to refine the messaging. Their findings and advice are still relevant. One point they stressed to us then was that our students are our best spokespeople, another was the power of parent and alumni testimonials. As we prepare to develop a new viewbook, it seemed unnecessary to engage a storytelling firm. We have the story and the storytellers right here.
In the last few years, the School has undergone a pretty thorough process of individuation and soul-searching. We feel confident about our strengths and identity. The communications office has a good idea of what we want to portray and sees this as an exciting opportunity to showcase and develop the storytelling talents we nurture right here on campus. In particular, we hope that this project gives everyone in our community, including our alumni and parents, a chance to be involved. By partnering with teachers and students, the communications office hopes to capture the school experience and provide a broad, authentic and diverse picture of our community.
The value proposition
The viewbook will be focused around four unique attributes of Randolph. Last year, with the help of a marketing task force of parent volunteers, we outlined what we believe to be Randolph’s value proposition, reasons a person would choose to invest in a Randolph education, what sets us apart and what makes us unique.
These attributes should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows this school. They were prominent in our last viewbook and are essential to our institutional identity:
- Relationships – between student and teacher, peers, colleagues, among families, across the grades, between alumni and faculty. These relationships are where learning, nurturing and character development take place.
- Freedom – as an independent school, we chart our own course. Teachers are free to teach and students are free to learn. We give students freedom because we trust them. As several students at an Honor Council presentation stated recently, we are a community of trust.
- School culture – Parents and students share values that make us all better. Parents realize that education is the most meaningful investment they can make in their child’s life. Students thrive in a culture of like-minded peers who are equally invested in their own education and an atmosphere that inspires a love of learning
- High expectations – faculty and parents will also state this as challenge. We present a challenging curriculum and in providing the many opportunities for students to get involved in co- and extracurricular activities they are challenged to grow and to find their talents while maintaining balance and being their best selves.
Our new viewbook will illustrate these attributes primarily through the students’ words and images. Several Upper School classes will take part in the book’s graphic design, photography and writing. For the past few years, students and faculty have contributed to School publications (the magazine and the blog) and we believe this has been a gain all around.
Based on the success of Interim Live and #dc8, where Upper School and 8th grade students and teachers shared photos and tweets of their Interim Week experiences, we invite all who want to take part to contribute through a monthly prompt and use of the tag #rstories13.
As we work to equip our students with the six essential skills we believe they will need for school and life, here is an opportunity for them to learn these in a real-life setting. For 1st graders, this is documenting how they use the mobile furniture in their classrooms. For students in the new Middle School digital storytelling elective, it may be sharing some of their work. In AP Language and Composition, students are learning about visual text and narrative strategies and will try their hand at writing some of the book’s copy, while the Graphics students will look at structure and layout.
The end result, we hope, will be more than a brochure, but also a portfolio of learning. As an admissions brochure, it should be compelling because it will show what our students can do and how they learn.
As we all wrestle with the question of how students know they’re learning, we hope that this project helps students themselves to answer that question. Through the process of working on this project, they are documenting and communicating their learning in a form of slow-cooked storytelling through a variety of formats, formal and informal.
We hope you will follow this story as it develops and help us celebrate and affirm this unique community of learners.
During the 2013-14 school year, we collected hundreds of stories and over a thousand photos. Students across all the grades took part. The final project was Our Stories, a reimagined viewbook narrated by students. You can actually hear their voices here. If you would like to receive a copy of the printed book, please contact our Admissions Office by using the button below.