I know just enough about social media to be dangerous. I grew up in a childhood without cell phones. Your story was told by how you carried yourself and what you accomplished at school, on the playing field, or in your job. Your thoughts and rants were kept to yourself or in your inner circle. As such, I was strongly against a professional social media page and a school page. I felt that it would put our school out in the public eye and leave it open for negative comments that are hard to police. It is difficult enough keeping a handle on the daily and evening activities of a school without tracking social media as well.
However, after a few incidents involving incorrect information about our high school on social media and having to respond or rely on others to comment, I realized we were spending too much time on damage control. I thought, “Why am I allowing other people to tell our story?” It was time for us to broadcast the information that we want everyone to know to stay informed, but to also share the great events happening every day at our school.
I met with my admin team and quickly came up with a plan to tell our story. We immediately created Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and started blasting out information and pictures of school activities. Luckily, I have young, tech-savvy admins who were ready to jump at the chance to run our accounts. Our followers grew quickly and many shares and likes started immediately. The community tagged parents of students so they could see their child on our page. Parents especially loved finding out things that their student forgot to mention. We began an athletic page so those that could not attend sporting events could see score updates and information immediately.
Among the information we began sharing on social media:
- Pictures and captions of club activities
- Score updates at the end of each quarter featuring football games or live video of a play
- Live feed of choral songs
- Students doing group activities
- Shoutouts and pictures of our custodian working hard for our school
- Information about picture day
- Inclement weather policy
- Awards won by our students
We have now reached a point where teachers, advisers, and coaches send us pictures daily with a sentence or two about the activity. We also receive requests to come to a classroom or event to take pictures and share. Because our pages are a constant flurry of activity, many groups from the area have started sharing our stories as well.
We have discovered that posting the positives by far outweigh any negative social media occurrences that pop up. It is powerful when those on the outside can catch a glimpse of our school from the inside. I have been told many times that people look forward to our daily posts and activities. One of our most memorable posts was a video of a teacher dance-off at our fall pep rally. The post reached over 13,000 people, which to me is mind-blowing. Our teachers were seen in a completely different light by our parents and community, and the post also provided a great conversation piece for families at home.
Social media can be the quickest and most telling way to provide important information and positive stories about your school. Take the steps to share your story. You have the ability to control the perceptions of your school to those outside your walls.
Holly Kleppner is the 2019 West Virginia Principal of the Year. She was previously an English teacher and basketball coach. Follow her on Twitter (@KleppnerH) and visit her school’s social media presence on Twitter (@MuHSApplemen), Facebook (Musselman Applemen), and Instagram (Applemengram).