I was told several years ago, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” This has resonated with me since then. If there is nothing else you get from this post, remember that one thing. It is so important for us to tell the real story about what’s going on in education, specifically public education. In North Carolina (and around the country), public education is under attack, and it is our job to fight back with positive stories about all of the awesome that happens in our buildings every single day.
Book 11 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up tells you exactly how to go about telling that story! Your School Rocks by Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe shares stories of two principals in Ohio and how they use social media to tell their school story, thus building culture within the building and rapport with the community.
This book was released at a time when schools were just beginning to tap into the power of social media. My district office had just required Facebook pages of each school in our system about 6 months before this book was published. I remember going to my principal when I started my first position in a media center and begging to start a Facebook page for our school. At the time, there was so much red tape around it that we ultimately decided to wait. By the time summer rolled around (about 6 months after I began that position), it was deemed a requirement. And kudos to our central office, Superintendent, and Board of Education for seeing that this would positively impact our school system. When school started back, I became the Facebook & Twitter administrator for our school, as well as the Public Information Officer (PIO) in which I wrote articles for our local newspaper and invited the press to big events in our school.
Here’s a few somethings I found out while doing those three roles:
- I needed to relax. I was so worried that a negative post would come up and I wouldn’t be able to respond before the firestorm happened that I checked our Facebook and Twitter pages every 30 minutes or so. It was the last thing I checked before bed and the first thing I checked in the morning. However, no negative posts ever came. Ever. As Ryan & Eric say, “Since we kept our posts positive, parents tend to be positive as well.” This was 100% truth in my experience.
- Know your DNR students. As you know, a DNR typically refers to “Do Not Resuscitate” which gets people’s attention really fast! However, for us, it meant “Do Not Release”. Like Ryan and Eric, we respected the wishes of any parent/guardian who did not want their child’s photo or name released on social media. It was incredibly important that the child’s teacher, special area teachers, principal, assistant principal, and myself knew to keep that student out of the frame when taking pictures! So, our version of a DNR got our attention really quickly, too! If you are the one posting photos to the school’s social media accounts, you must be DILIGENT about checking, double checking, and triple checking that these students are not posted. We only had 6 when I was at that school, so it was easy to remember their faces and names.
- Parents REALLY respond to social media. I was constantly blown away by the responses we would get on social media and how immediate those responses would be! For example, I would record short videos of students practicing for their Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) performance and parents would oooh and aaah over the videos, liking, sharing, and commenting within minutes of the post being published! More families typically attended those PTA performances where I would post those short videos of them practicing because they could see the hard work their child put in to perfecting the songs. Parents would ask questions about schedule changes and awards information on Facebook as well, and we would post a weekly update in a visual format every Sunday with key information for the week.
- Notice that I refer to Facebook and not Twitter. Our parents were not really on Twitter at the time. The space they frequented was Facebook, so that’s where I spent the majority of my time sharing school information. To make sure that our Twitter was not inactive, I linked the Twitter account to the Facebook account. Every time I would post on Facebook, Twitter would automatically generate a post for me and update on Twitter with a link to the Facebook post. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked and saved me a ton of time! I would suggest linking accounts when possible. Instagram has taken off in popularity so much that, like Ryan and Eric mention, I would ask students where they (and their parents) hang out on social media. I would imagine more students are on Instagram now than Facebook, to be honest; parents are likely still using Facebook!
- Once I started using the school’s social media outlets, there was no longer a need to write newspaper articles or beg the press to come to an event. Parents would get more information from social media than they would have from the newspaper anyway. If I was sharing information about an exciting event coming up, the press would contact us, and be more likely to show up on their own and write the article themselves (win-win).
In my current position, I am not in charge of our school’s social media, but I still post pictures on my personal Twitter account frequently! I make sure to take into consideration students that cannot be photographed and respect the wishes of that family. I tag our school’s Twitter account and use the district hashtag to promote the images beyond our school. It also makes the Twitter administrator’s job a bit easier because they only have to retweet from the school’s official Twitter account!
Ryan and Eric reference several times using social media on an eighth grade Washington, DC trip and how a hashtag allowed parents to follow along with their children while they were on the trip. I used my personal account, and encouraged the other chaperones to use theirs, to tweet pictures about our eighth grade trip to Williamsburg, VA. Students jumped on board and we had the BEST time tweeting! I had students let their parents know to follow the hashtag and it really eased many of the parental concerns about sending their child off for their first overnight school trip. You can still see the posts by searching for #mmms8thgradetrip on Twitter. I love the idea of pulling together all of the images for a Flipboard or another aggregation tool as suggested in the book!
Currently in my district, we are not allowed to “friend” or “follow” students on social media. This can make using a hashtag a “gray” area, as this puts interactions in a public forum outside of school and searchable by anyone, but is not sanctioned by the school. (Note: I have seen many elementary schools create Twitter walls in their classroom where students can write on a sentence strip what they would tweet on social media. I thought that was a clever way to still encourage connection and collaboration, as well as cyber safety and digital footprint, while still maintaining social media rules for students under the age of 13.) I need to further investigate the policies for my district in relation to hashtags and interactions outside of friend/follow requests. In fact, our policy likely needs to be updated to be more clear about social media as the prominence and proliferation of social media has become more and more evident. My favorite quote from the book stems from this idea, and I am sharing with our new Director of Communications in the coming weeks.
Many educators…are hesitant abut implementing the use of social media because of the potentially negative “what ifs?” Again, we encourage you also to consider all of the potentially positive “what ifs?” ~Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe
I am taking away multiple ideas from this book, like creating a video newsletter for the media center, encouraging positive character through the use of a daily quote, and having students and other educators write blog posts!
However, I think the one big idea I want to prioritize implementing this school year is working with my administrators to create a hashtag for our school that markets our mission and vision for all of our stakeholders. This way students can share their thoughts on any platform using the hashtag and they can own the positive promotion of our school. We are the Mustangs and we are a STEM magnet middle school, so if you can help us think of a creative, short hashtag, please share with me in the comments or on Twitter!
I really enjoyed reading Your School Rocks, and highly suggest purchasing the book, especially if you are not already employing the benefits of using social media and videos in your school or classroom. I want to stress again, check your district policy!!! Use the book to reference as you fight the battle, if need be. However, this is NOT one of those things I would suggest asking for forgiveness later. In this case, it’s best to ask permission, even if you’re just “test driving” social media tools!
Andrea Paulakovich (who I must give all credit for this incredibly genius idea) and I would love for you to share your thoughts of Your School Rocks on our Flipgrid! It is our goal that this space will become a global book study of ALL Dave Burgess Consulting books! So feel free to add your voice. If no one has posted yet, be a trendsetter! You may use the prompts for ideas if you’d like, but don’t feel obligated! Just share your thoughts! The password is always DBCSummer!
For more information, check out the website at YourSchoolRocks.com – several of the videos referenced in the book are housed there, as well as links to Ryan and Eric’s Google+ streams. You may also follow along with the community on Twitter using the hashtag #YourSchoolRocks!
Lastly, another exciting takeaway I had while reading was Teach Like A Pirate Day! Read more about this in the book, but just imagine this for a minute… kids come to school, report to their homeroom for attendance, and then get to CHOOSE which classes they attend for the entire day! Their choices are outlined in course description guide the day before – would students come to your class? As a teacher, I would LOVE this day because I would get to teach that lesson I’ve always wanted to teach but felt like I couldn’t because it may not be “on the test” and I know students are excited to come to my class because they CHOSE to be there. I immediately tweeted a #BookSnap and asked my principal if we could work this out as an enrichment day (days that are already built into our schedule).
Video trailers to create buzz & anticipation. #TLAP Day – allowing Ss to go to any class they want (Ts provide descriptions of activities). Ss excited about school! Easy to replicate! @goinssh – this is awesome! Enrichment Days? #BookSnaps #YourSchoolRocks #DBC50Summer pic.twitter.com/NDt8Pm1OdS
— Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) July 7, 2018
The 12th book is another shorter book, with only 85 pages! How Much Water Do We Have? appears to be unlike any other DBC book. Maybe it’s a risk that DBC took? I’m not sure! I’m very much looking forward to “diving in” (see what I did there; it’s been a while since I got to do a SWIDT moment). I was completely unaware of this book, so it should be exciting to see what happens in book 12! Stay Tuned!