Habits can fall by the wayside during the summer, and students and families may need a push in the right direction as school gears up after a long break. Using social media at the beginning of the school year in a consistent and engaging manner is a great way to create a community of learners moving in the same direction. Use these 10 tips to make it happen: 

  1. Choose your platform. Leaders approach social media in varying ways. It is important to choose your main platform, the one you are most comfortable using, and consistently update that platform (be sure to inform your community of the way they can expect you to communicate). It’s always good to have several platforms through which to communicate, but becoming comfortable with one and linking it to others is a good way to provide consistency. 
  2. Set schoolwide expectations and priorities. Focus on two to three schoolwide priorities and share them regularly on the social media platform. Remind students that they need to be present and active participants in their learning. Priorities include reminders about attendance, dressing today for what you hope to achieve tomorrow, tardy procedures, and meeting academic goals. These should be published consistently through social media. 
  3. Create a community challenge. Teachers can set goals for students, and leaders will always support these goals. However, making the community aware of these goals goes even further toward supporting success. Share your expectations with your community. Tell them what you will offer to their children, and don’t be afraid to ask them to participate in the process. Challenge them to communicate with teachers. Challenge them to monitor their child’s progress. Challenge them to expect their child to work hard to achieve. Publish this challenge via social media.
  4. Construct a calendar of events. Everyone in the community needs to know about your school’s important events. Advertise these events well in advance so you can increase parent engagement. Remember, you are hosting events because you value sharing your students with the community. If you want people to be aware and attend, you must regularly highlight these occasions. Make an event more than just a date on the calendar-provide the reason why community engagement is important. Then market your events using social media. 
  5. Brand your school. Social media is a great way to market your school. What do you want students to achieve by attending school each day? What points of pride are important to your students, teachers, and community? Use social media to promote your school’s unique brand. 
  6. Highlight your business partners. Schools have supporters from various places, and without those supporters, schools could not function as well as they do. Utilize social media to recognize your partnerships and broadcast the ways in which local businesses support student success at your school. Thank businesses and organizations for supporting the community and aiming to create a prosperous future.  
  7. Establish goals for students and families. Use social media to encourage long-term and short-term goal setting. Focus on your school’s improvement plan, and share those broad goals with the community while encouraging the action steps needed to achieve those goals. When students and families set goals for learning, the desired outcomes are far more possible. Social media is a place to remind the community of your academic and behavioral focus. 
  8. Tout your teachers. Teachers support students every day, but remember that not all students get the chance to experience all teachers at your school. Use social media to recognize the talents and gifts of the various teachers in your building. Share anecdotes with the community so students and families learn about the experts in your building. In this way, all students can feel as if they experience all teachers. 
  9. Share student accolades. Highlight the ways in which your students are achieving in and out of the classroom. Kick off the year by recognizing students’ growth in all areas. When students do the right thing by each other, publicly highlight this. In this way, you are supporting your PBIS program, teaching the expectations, and recognizing when students meet them. 
  10. Focus on flexibility. Be sure you are willing to embrace social media as it changes. Allow experts in your building to manage the social media venues of your choice, and embrace the opinions of those around you. Utilize social media in the best way possible for your community.  

The beginning of the school year is the time to model for your community how you want to partner with them. Use social media to express expectations, establish values, engage community, and brand your school. 

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

Making It Work

Here’s how to implement a top-notch social media program at your school: 

  • Choose your platform and consistently use that platform as effectively as possible. You may have more than one platform, but highlight the one you and your community are most comfortable using. Your community will value consistency.
  • Publish your expectations, then ask your community to hold you and your teachers accountable. 
  • Brand your school by consistently highlighting your vision. As principals, our focus for students is teaching and learning-ask yourself “How is this the continuous theme of social media posts from my school?”