This Tuesday I’ll be starting my first full-year as the Elementary Principal of T. Baldwin Demarest Elementary School (TBD) in the Old Tappan School District. Since assuming the position last spring, one of my priorities has been making sure there is ongoing communication between the school and the community. Although nothing entirely replaces face-to-face communication (which should be our default, when possible), we have also been leveraging a weekly newsletter (created in WordPress), social media, and a district hashtag – #OldTappanProud – to inform our stakeholders and tell our story.
By the time last school year came to a close, pretty much all of our classroom teachers were on Instagram, pushing out photographs (and some videos) with their classroom accounts. And, the students and the community have made it clear they love the sneak peeks into what’s happening in our learning spaces. These previews help us to be transparent with our work, while assisting us in growing and promoting our school’s brand or identity.
As the principal, I’m currently the only person who posts to the school’s social media accounts (although, in the future, it may be advantageous to occasionally turn over the reins to students or teachers). Therefore, as the school’s default storyteller-in-chief, I have both the responsibility and pressure of making sure what’s posted accurately and positively reflects what’s taking place at the school. In other words, according to Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo, I have to “ensure that the brand promise matches the brand experience.”
That being said, as I continue to reflect upon how I represent my school on social media, and as I continue to learn from other educators who post about their schools, I’ve started to think it’s possible to categorize the different ways in which posts contribute (or don’t contribute) to a school or district’s brand. Awareness of these categories can help us to ensure our intent goes hand-in-hand with the perceptions of our stakeholders who view what we publish.
Although it’s impossible to categorize every post, here are five categories I have found to be common amongst administrators. (Keep in mind, the lines between these categories can also be blurred.)
1. Look at Me
Example 1: Photograph/Selfie of administrator smiling while holding office phone to his or her ear. Caption: “I always love making positive phone calls!”
Example 2: Photograph/Selfie of administrator putting on sneakers. Caption: “Recess is always so much fun!”
2. Look at My Work
Example 1: Photograph of shiny gym floor. Caption: “Today I had fun cleaning. Always happy to help out our custodians!”
Example 2: Photograph of painting. Caption: “Decided to work alongside our students in art class!”
3. Look at Us
Example 1: Photograph of administrator and administrative assistants. Caption: “I absolutely love my team!”
Example 2: Photograph of administrator and students. Caption: “Our students are the best!”
4. Look at Their work
Example 1: Photographs of classrooms. Caption: “Our teachers worked so hard on their new flexible seating arrangements!”
Example 2: Photographs of student essays. Caption: “So great to see our students taking risks with narrative writing during Writing Workshop!”
5. Look at Them
Example 1: Photographs of teachers presenting during assembly. Caption: “It was inspiring to see our teachers bring down the house during today’s assembly!”
Example 2: Photographs of students during brand practice. Caption: “Blown away by how far our students have come since the beginning of the year!”
While I think there’s a time and place for Look at Me and Look at My Work, as a school or district’s storyteller-in-chief, I believe we should be making sure our posts primarily focus on our students, followed by our teachers and staff. (Admittedly, I can do better in this area. And, admittedly, this isn’t always easy when students somewhat regularly ask me to take selfies with them.)
For each of the first three categories, here are three ways we can easily move along the “continuum.”
- Look at Me: For something like positive phone calls, we can change up the caption, citing what we’re doing as one of the many things that are done at the school to build positive culture. Including The Why helps to hammer home the point that everyone benefits from these types of actions.
- Look at My Work: If we have time to take pictures of our own work, we have time to take pictures of the work of others. For example, as the school year begins, it’s encouraging to see all of the administrators who are posting photographs of their immaculate schools along with captions that thank their custodians.
- Look at Us: We can simply take a picture of others, rather than a selfie with others. In many instances, when we unnecessarily include ourselves in a photo op, we make it a little more about us and a little less about them. However, there are times in which it’s beneficial to include everyone, such as when we’re showing teamwork.
In the End
In most schools and districts, the majority of stakeholders are already on social media. So, it makes perfect sense for us to meet our people where they are by leveraging these platforms to tell our story. At the same time, a school or district’s social media feed can possibly tell us a lot about the way the organization operates and what (or whom) is prioritized.
As we (administrators) post to social media, with the tap of a few buttons we have opportunities to brand our organizations, influence public perception, and serve our students, teachers, and staff by highlighting what they do best. So let’s not let these opportunities pass us by, let’s make sure we’re intentional with our posts, and, above all else…
Let’s keep the focus where it belongs.
What do your school/district’s social media feeds say about your organization? When might it be ok for our posts to say “Look at Me” and/or “Look at My Work”?
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