How does your school share vital information with the community? When there is time-sensitive information, how do you provide your students, parents, faculty, and community with the next steps?

Utilizing Facebook consistently to share updates and reminders is a positive way to remind the school community of upcoming events, celebrate school successes, and share news relating to the student body and state of the school. Providing shareholders with Facebook posts as reminders and, in some cases, directives ties the school community together with one vision. However, Facebook is not without its dangers. Posting stories with the option to comment can turn a positive situation into a negative one. 

Advantages of Using Facebook 

Email, Twitter, and Instagram are great tools for sharing bursts of information, but with Facebook there is room to combine images with a story. This social medium provides space to narrate, unlike Twitter or Instagram. When you need to reach a large audience in a hurry, Facebook is appropriate because it can come in the form of storytelling or directing the community about next steps. In addition, shareholders can respond with reflective comments or ask pertinent questions that can be addressed quickly for clarification.

Facebook Formats for Your Community

There are two types of Facebook audiences. The first audience is the community. This community consists of students, parents, teachers, and business shareholders. The second audience is faculty and staff. Consider creating two different Facebook pages-one for each group.

When sharing information with a wide audience, the messages are intended to inform, celebrate, or update. Facebook provides enough space to flesh out a situation or provide celebratory details. In addition, pictures can be loaded along with a story.

For example, when a student group wins a competition, it is easy to upload a picture on a community Facebook page along with a brief history of why this group of students has been successful. Parents and students can then comment, further celebrating the group’s accomplishments. In this way, school leaders can quickly disseminate information to a wide audience. Plus, school leaders can monitor responses and answer questions as appropriate. 

If something negative is stated, school leaders have the ability to use their discretion and block that user. Negative comments are more often seen when Facebook is used to share information about dangerous situations at school, such as a notice about weapons on campus. It is important to ensure posts are relevant and informative and to make sure the community feels at ease with information shared. It is also important to avoid overusing Facebook so the community finds this communication relevant and useful. 

Facebook Post Examples 

Community Facebook posting includes a variety of information. When our school has an event, we post pictures of students and share the story of why we are participating in an activity. For example, we hosted an activity day for students in good academic standing as part of our positive behavior intervention program. We had hundreds of students taking part in ultimate Frisbee, football, volleyball, soccer, kickball, and numerous other events. We were able to share, visually, what they were doing, and also provide the background as to why we believed hosting such an event was important. 

Aside from celebrations, we use Facebook to share when something unfortunate occurs. For example, we had a student pass away during a school break. We felt it was important to let the community know where they could find counseling services for their students, since school was closed. We could also address questions relating to details and could reassure the community that we had support in place for those grieving. In addition, we were able to inform the community about memorial services and next steps for when we returned to school. This Facebook community page allows for that balance of narrating while providing enough space to share a situation, but in a format that’s not as lengthy as a blog. 

Below is an example of a post we shared (with student-specific information removed for privacy). This post allowed parents to get in contact with us as their students were grieving. It provided a place to celebrate this student’s life as well. 

AHS Family,

 It is with a heavy heart that we share we have lost one of our students, a very special young man who shared his talents with many. Arrangements, planned for Saturday, October 22nd, will begin at 2:00 p.m. We will have support for all of our students, faculty, and staff the week we return from fall break. In addition, support will be specifically available for classmates. Please contact the AHS principal prior to returning to school if your child should need support due to this loss sooner than the Monday we return from break. 

Finally, the community can be made aware of upcoming events at the school and ask questions via the Facebook community page, as well. When we are selling yearbooks at lunch or when students are picking out graduation invitations, we can post the date and time, and parents can ask questions about cost or package options. With the community page, it is important for school leaders or their designees to monitor and respond to pertinent questions. 

Facebook for Professional Learning 

Another option for Facebook is to use the forum for professional learning. This is where creating a Facebook account just for school staff members comes in handy. This year, our faculty and staff are reading The Cage-Busting Teacher. Thanks to Facebook, we can post a summary of each session, in addition to seeking comments and feedback. This has been helpful in promoting new ideas for the classroom. When one teacher responds to another, it sparks an idea, and suddenly that idea begins to flourish. Collaboration is guaranteed, and any information the school leader or presenter may have forgotten to include in the session can be shared using this social media tool. 

In lieu of holding traditional professional learning sessions, school leaders can also use Facebook as a meeting place, posting video clips and sharing discussion questions for faculty and staff to respond to with ideas to enhance the classroom and culture of the building. 

It is imperative to keep the professional learning information off the community page, however, as that audience is too wide, and they don’t need this information. Plus, faculty and staff value and appreciate their own professional network that is secure for those in their work space.

The key to faculty and staff Facebook posting is consistency and relevance. If you wish to seek collaboration in this format, you’ll need to regularly share professional information and consistently respond to positive ideas. 

Jennifer Martin is the principal of Apalachee High School in Winder, GA.

Making It Work

Here are some do’s and don’ts for using Facebook

  • Do create two Facebook accounts-one for the community and one for faculty and staff. 
  • Do be aware of what your audience needs. The community needs timely information, free of distraction. Faculty and staff need a place to professionally grow and learn with one another. 
  • Do respond to questions on a consistent basis, reassuring your audience that your Facebook page is relevant. 
  • Don’t be oversensitive to criticism. If a comment is inappropriate, block that comment. However, generally use that negative comment as a chance to address something, creating an opportunity for improved communication.