I love using social media to tell the story of our school. I am passionate about how we employ social media to not just tell our story, but to engage our students, staff, and families. Instagram, in particular, has definitely helped us to not only promote the amazing things that are happening in our school, but also to connect to our students in ways we had not imagined.

In July 2018, I decided to learn how to use Instagram through a book study. Guess what? I discovered that our students live on Instagram. As I started posting more and more on Instagram, I was having more students see my posts and start interacting with my content.

I decided to use Instagram to post to our students each day of the school year.  I started by posting informational messages, but I quickly realized the power of using Instagram to promote our vision and connect with our students. Each morning, I posted a message to our students, staff, and families—sometimes informational, sometimes encouraging, sometimes motivational, sometimes just to say that I was thinking about them as I started my day.

Not only was I able to post pictures from our school—great things I saw in classrooms, videos of student performances, or awesome activities we were doing—but I also started making pictures on Adobe Spark Post that fit my purpose. I created calendar reminders, informational pictures about upcoming events, or just fun messages that I wanted to share.

Around November, the students started commenting on my posts as they saw me in the morning—“Hey, Mrs. Rackley, I liked your Bitmoji this morning!” or “I saw your reminder about Spirit Week this morning! I would have forgotten my hat if you hadn’t reminded me.” And, honestly, that was all the motivation I needed to keep posting and even turn it up a notch. I was so energized to connect with our students and engage them on Instagram.

Just before the holidays, I had 262 likes on my Instagram posts in 22 hours that I could identify as our students, staff, or families. It was like lighting a fire—within the next few days, I had more students and parents following me, liking our posts, and commenting about the fun things happening in our school. I love when parents see their students in a picture and comment or like the videos we post.

I love the opportunity to share our message, vision, goals, successes, and celebrations with our school. Instagram has opened doors to start conversations, recognize our students, embrace the great things happening at our school, and communicate with our students and families where they are. I post our Wakelet collections, newsletters, and important information to both Twitter and Instagram, trying to build as many bridges as I can with as many families as possible. Social media has provided a forum for us to create a true sense of #CommUNITY. From #FalconsCARE to #FalconFridays and Spirit Week to our grab and go breakfast cart, we have been able to use social media to promote our vision and goals with our students—and they are taking notice!

Mariah Rackley was named one of the Digital Principals of the Year for 2018 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mariah just completed her 18th year at Cedar Crest Middle School and her 10th as the building principal. Mariah’s professional interests include leadership, student agency, personalized learning, innovation, creativity, and motivation theory. Follow her on Twitter (@MrsRackleyCCMS) and on Instagram (mrsrackleyccms).

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