As social media emerged as a mainstream communication device for school leaders years ago, so evolved the use of the hashtag. Back in 2012 when I first was dabbling with Twitter, Patrick Larkin, one of our first digital principals, used the simple hashtag #bhschat to keep a running dialogue with his high school students, staff, and families. His example prompted me to start my own weekly hashtag chat at Timberview Middle School. We called it #TMSHawkChat, and we made great connections as a community through those weekly conversations. Now only six years later, school/community hashtag chats are commonplace all over the world, and we have learned many more uses for the hashtag on social media.
We can use hashtags to identify strands of learning. For example, at my previous school we used #TMSLearns to draw our community’s attention to learning experiences happening on the campus. Teachers would post images and videos of innovative and/or engaging activities to share with one another and for families to have a look inside the classroom. We used #TMSLeads to highlight articles, quotes, and activities related to our staff’s and students’ leadership growth. We also used it to promote examples of leadership on campus, both individual and collective accomplishments.
My favorite use of the hashtag in the school setting is to carry out ideas connected to our school’s vision, values, and goals. At my new school, Northwest High School, our students and staff worked together to develop a hashtagged theme that conveys our work to “level up” our existing efforts in a variety of ways. Our student council suggested the hashtag #TexanUp (our mascot is the Texans) would catch on, and it has indeed. We use #TexanUp to share examples of our students, staff, and community working to get better at the things we do, to celebrate someone stepping up to lead, and to pay homage to innovation and positive risk-taking.
At my previous school, we hashtagged photos of examples of our students and staff living out elements of the Timberview Way. #IFeelProud would accompany a display of pride in the school, while #IFeelSafe might accompany someone showing a safe habit or taking good care of someone else.
The fun thing about hashtags is you can be as creative as you like while you share the story of your school and share concrete examples of how you want your school brand to be perceived.
Are you unfamiliar with hashtags or hesitant about social media in general? You are missing out on a GREAT and easily accessible tool to promote your school. Start your own personal Twitter account today and spend some time looking at the ways some of your colleagues share the good news of their schools. Perhaps you will be inspired just as I was a few years ago. Social media has revolutionized the way I lead.
Carrie Jackson is the principal of Northwest High School in Justin, Texas. Carrie was named an NASSP Digital Principal in 2013 and has been actively involved in leadership with NASSP and TASSP for many years. She currently serves as the Texas Association’s immediate past president. Follow her on Twitter @jackson_carrie.