Engaging families at Maclean High School

Maclean High School Careers Adviser, Danielle Fisher, is enjoying some great success thanks to her savvy approach to engaging families in the ‘careers conversation.’ We spoke to Danielle about what’s working for her.

Image: Danielle tackles careers conversations with an adventurous spirit

Careers Advisers face all sorts of challenges when it comes to engaging families on the ‘careers conversation.’ Whether it’s time poor parents and carers, a lack of awareness of the opportunities available to students, or what Danielle refers to as “familial peer pressure,” it can be difficult to get the conversation started. Throw some community diversity into the mix and you have the makings of a challenging engagement landscape.

“We’re a diverse school in the sense that we have kids from the coast as well as kids from the country,” says Danielle.

“We also have a range of different families here, from nuclear families to single parents, kids in care and, in some cases, we have grandparents that are looking after the students.”

Given the school’s diversity, Danielle avoids referring to “parents” and instead talks about her students’ “families.” It might seem like a small thing, but it points to the fact that Danielle really understands the context she’s operating in. Likewise, the communication strategies that Danielle has implemented show that she has a good handle on the situation.

“I post a lot in local Facebook groups rather than on our school page,” says Danielle when we ask what tactics she’s using to engage families.

“Some of these groups, like ‘’Mid North Coast Job Vacancies’ or ‘Clarence Valley Information Exchange’, have close to 10,000 members whereas our school page has 1,200, so we reach a lot of families that way.”

Danielle even has a Snapchat that she uses to push relevant info out to students so they don’t miss out. It’s an approach that’s working for students and families, and one that’s had some positive yet unintended consequences.

“Sometimes the content I publish encourages parents and other family members to upskill and undertake additional training,” says Danielle.

“Tagging someone in a Facebook post can be much more effective than relying on them to check their emails.”

Social media marketing aside, Danielle is also practising some good old fashion community engagement. The charismatic teacher is actively involved in her local community as a member of the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club and a volunteer with Disabled Surfers Australia, two engagements that create opportunities to build relationships with families and start the careers conversation organically.

Like many other Careers Advisers, Danielle also opts to help out with school sport and excursions, and makes a point of engaging students and families from Day One, rather than waiting until they get to Year 9. For example, Danielle recently invited Year 7 students to attend a Women in Architecture forum. After all, why should the future Zaha Hadids of the world be excluded from these sorts of opportunities just because they’re in Year 7? Of course, Danielle’s email also introduced her to a new group of families.

“Those families are a little more familiar with me now, so when their students get to Years 9 and 10, they will know where to come to get that information.

When it comes to engaging families on their students’ future careers, Danielle Fisher is playing a long game. And from what we’ve seen, she’s playing for keeps.

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