Did something awesome happen in your school today? Did a student or staff member do something that really impressed you? Are you proud of your classroom, school or district? If so, who knows about it? Are you the only person in your classroom, school or district who knows about the awesome things happening in schools? The time has come for us to take control of the stories being shared about our learning spaces – we must seize the opportunity to be the chief storytellers of our classrooms, schools and districts so we can spotlight all the incredible things happening in our schools! The narratives of schools across the country are being told by people who have no connection to buildings, but we can change who controls the message.
The first thing we can do is think about the ways we engage our families – we must get information to all members of our community by being present in various platforms and spaces. Certainly the traditional paper newsletter or email updates can work, but we should also consider how we can capitalize on the various forms of technology to amplify our school stories and accelerate how they spread beyond the walls of our schools. For example, the use of social media meets families, community members, and decision makers in places where they live daily. Find out how to maximize your school’s social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many more) in order to lead, inspire and inform all stakeholders. Create school accounts if you don’t have them and learn how to integrate your school’s brand, messaging, and outreach.
Here are a few tips to get you rolling:
- Develop an Identity: Social media only amplifies and accelerates culture. If the culture of your building is not sound, that is the story that will be told.
- Find Your Audience: Where do your stakeholders live virtually? Having a presence in spaces where people live is vital to the success of our social media efforts. There is really no sense in posting daily to MySpace.
- Define your message and make sure it is shared by those in your building: Your brand promise has to match the brand experience. If your staff is telling a different story than you are, it is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Define the Intent of the Page or Space: One of the first questions we get asked when starting a page is what happens when someone reacts negatively to a post. Be very clear that the intent of the page is to celebrate the great things happening in the school. Be willing to respond to a negative post with the message that you would love to talk to the person about the issue, but this will never be a place to have that conversation.
- Build Your Brand: Set a goal of interaction. Our only goal in Fall Creek is to produce 7 positive non-athletic posts per week. The number is good on both ends. Less than that and we are not providing an opportunity to interact daily. More than that and we overwhelm the stream of our parents.
- Leverage a Hashtag: Using a school hashtag can be one of the biggest momentum builders. The hashtag is an absolute key to the success of your social media presence when it comes to telling the story of your school. A solid and unique hashtag can provide a sense of pride and identity. It can also help us change the narrative of schools and help people concentrate on the great things happening with our students and teachers.
- Become an Expert: Start in a space where your families live virtually and get really good at engaging with that medium. Then…only then…move on to other social media areas. Become proficient in Facebook (often the most used by families), move on to Twitter, and then to Instagram. By that time you will be able to share all of your stories through the three spaces.
- Celebrate Kids: This should honestly be the best part of your day as an administrator. Celebrating the work of kids is at the core of what we do and to share their story with the world is truly important. It helps them with the idea that the world is bigger than their classroom. It helps teachers to understand that their world will be shared with the community and we want that audience to engage. It helps the parents because they feel a connection to a place that they physically visit daily to pick up children and helps them start conversations at night that don’t start with… “What did you do in school today?” and end with “Nothing”.
Engaging the Community
Social Media is the new resume for districts. We live in a society that has access to anything they want with two touches on their phone. Our story will be told. The question is this… who is telling it? We have an opportunity to narrate that story. That narration becomes our resume for the community. Here are some ways to expand your reach and build your resume throughout the year…
- Contests: Engaging the community in contests can make them feel connected to the greater good. Posting things to the Facebook page like “The first 5 people to find me at the football game and tell me the mission of our school get a t-shirt” can let you know that the page is being viewed AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, kids and parents are talking about your school.
- Find It Fridays: Post a sticker somewhere in the HS and tell kids that the first 5 people to find it, tweet it with our handle and hashtag get a gas card and a t-shirt. Kids LOVE this and it keeps them connected to your feed. Best reach for this activity is Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Throwback Thursdays: 80% of the voting public in your community do not have kids in school. Letting them know what is going on between the walls is important to develop trust. Connecting them emotionally to the school may be more important. Using Throwback Thursday to celebrate the work of the past is a great way to engage the alumni and community members.
- Live Streaming Events: Kids and parents love live streamed events…but not nearly as much as grandparents and relatives that live outside of the community! Live streaming games has become so much easier with the advent of new platforms like Periscope and Meerkat.
- Student Blogging: It’s THEIR SCHOOL! Let them tell the world about it! When students blog it gives them an authentic audience and a much needed voice in the community.
- Podcasting: Another great way to tell the story. Using Garageband and then pushing to SoundCloud can give you a really clear and professional look. Add student created music to the beginning and end of the podcast for another school connection. Every podcast doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. In fact, short snippets of student voice on a consistent basis can more powerful than a podcast that airs every other week or monthly. Don’t underestimate the power of mobile platforms like Audioboom. With a quality hand held mic the sound is fantastic and can upload really easily.
As you can see, there are a plethora of tools that we can access to tell our school stories. In the end, the responsibility lies with us to celebrate our students and their successes. Every child who walks into our schools has a story to tell regardless of ability, background knowledge, or socioeconomic level. Some have the ability to tell those stories, some do not, but all deserve to have their voices heard. We often defer to outside voices telling us what our schools are like based on an experience they had long ago. We have the power and opportunity to shift the mindset of those in the public sector if we are shouting the great things that kids do in our schools. When the dust settles within our classrooms/schools/districts, the narrative has to be about kids…every single one of our kids. We do this for every one of the kids who walks through our doors regardless of language, ethnicity or gender. We owe it to them. Not because it is our job, or because someone did it for us, or even because they will be taking care of us someday…we owe it to them because they deserve the best. They deserve to have a voice in the educational experience. They deserve to be at the center of the stories and we should never give up the opportunity to say something great about our schools.