Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Why Your Whole Staff Should Be on Twitter

By Adam Welcome & Amy Fadeji — October 12, 2014 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Today’s guest post is written by two elementary principals from California who use Twitter as their daily communication tool!

Adam Welcome @awelcome - Principal of John Swett Elementary @jseroadrunners

Twitter in Elementary school started for me five years ago during my time as an Elementary Assistant Principal. Our goal was to bring our school community closer together and open up classroom doors to develop stronger relationships. We had great success and feedback from our school community, and when I became Principal three years ago I knew we could do it bigger and better!

The VAST majority of my day is spent in classrooms and on campus, why not Tweet all the #eduawesome that’s going on. I can be in a 1st grade classroom listening to a student read, check our @jseroadrunners feed and see something totally awesome going on in a different classroom. There have been countless times when I’ve changed my daily plan at school based on what’s coming from our feed. Of course I’m super connected with my staff of twenty-six teachers and 520 students, but having them active on Twitter keeps me that much closer and tuned in! Parents at John Swett are no longer in the dark about what happened at school each day. From class, PE, Music, recess and lunch, parents can ‘see’ what activities are going on or be able to ask their child specific questions from the day!

What’s It Like?

  • Last year I was at Teachers College in New York for a week and still knew what was happening on campus.
  • Our immediate school community is SO much more connected. Kindergarten teachers can see what’s happening in the upper grades, how else can this happen!
  • Staff is providing a sneak peak into their classrooms on a daily basis!
  • It’s Open House, all day long, all year long!
  • Parents constantly tell me they have two screens up at work, one is ALWAYS the John Swett feed!
  • Our district office is more connected, they all follow our school and stay in the John Swett loop.
  • Parents know what happened at school and can ask their child specific questions about the day!
  • Teachers will adjust a lesson based on a Tweet they saw from their neighbor, sharing great ideas amongst each other is all part of the power.
  • We developed Team Kid as our school slogan two years ago, which has become our de facto hashtag, add us to your TweetDeck! #teamkid
  • Now that our Middle School and High School are Tweeting as well, we’re connected K-12 and the community can see what’s happening across the district.
  • Twitter has huge KDI factor when you ‘share’ their work! (Kids Dig It)
  • Which means your PLI increases exponentially! (Parents Love It)
  • Being a Principal is rewarding, demanding, and of course fun, connecting our entire school community through Twitter makes it that much more awesome!
  • You can see all our staff handles here. (440 followers, 6,500+ tweets!) @jseroadrunners

Amy Fadeji (@mrsfadeji), Principal of Penngrove Elementary @pennpanthers

Being an elementary principal is BUSY! Two years ago, I attended a conference in Southern California and listened to a powerful message from Superintendent Chris Kennedy. Chris was talking about building school culture and he provided examples of tools for educators to use along their journey. When Chris mentioned Twitter, I almost stopped listening. Like I said, life as an administrator is busy! At the time, I was struggling just to respond to all my emails and was barely keeping up with my work load. Deep down, I couldn’t possibly imagine one MORE thing to keep track of.

Thank goodness Chris started dropping truth bombs before I could tune out. “Who is telling the story of your school? Who is sharing the successes and failures of your students and staff? How do people know what’s happening on the other side of those school walls? Why would you wait for someone else to tell YOUR story?” I sat there with tears in my eyes and restrained myself from running across the room and embracing Chris after a 20 foot running jump hug. (I’m totally serious, I’m pretty good at those.)

Fast forward to Monday, July 21, 2014. I’m sitting in our school library with my K-2 team eating some delicious professional development served to us on a silver platter by Lisa Highfill. When all of the sudden, my phone lights up with a Twitter notification. Simultaneously, a teacher from across the room says, “This is happening.” And there I was, in total disbelief that WE had done it! ALL STAFF ON TWITTER BABY! That’s right! All 21 teachers and then some! SCORE!

So, what is it like to be a principal with your entire staff on Twitter? It’s everything that our school stands for, that I stand for as a leader, and that our teaching staff stands for as professionals. Sharing. Gratitude. Connecting. Adventure. Risks. Learning. Successes. Challenges. Modeling. Researching. Collaborating.

In preparation for this blog post, I glanced through our school Twitter account, @pennpanthers to remind myself of the reasons I put such a heavy emphasis on Twitter. Within about 45 seconds, I had a huge smile across my face. Pictures, links, voice recordings, and words strewn together in an effort to bring the walls of our school crumbling down.

  • 4th graders on a field trip
  • 6th graders working on a “productive struggle” in math
  • Student council members leading deep conversations
  • Genius hour alive and well
  • Blogging links for friends to leave comments
  • Gratitude towards an author who visited our campus
  • Pictures of new backpack hooks crafted by our maintenance department
  • Kindergartners tie dying shirts with parent volunteers
  • Digital citizenship being ironed out with modeling and guidance
  • 2nd graders using Class Dojo
  • Our Librarian talking about book trailers
  • Our Office Manager playing soccer with students during recess intramurals
  • 5th graders doing a Mystery Google Hangout

As a principal, I can’t possibly be in all of these places at one time participating or even observing them taking place. However, having our staff on Twitter unites us all. It brings us together and helps us as a team remember that we’re all in this together. It brings parents and community members onto our campus daily, and it connects our classrooms and students throughout the week.

Something worthy of noting is that you don’t have to have a Twitter account or even “follow us” to see the happenings on campus. Our Twitter feed automatically appears on the front page of our www.penngroveelementary.org website as well as automatically posts to our Facebook page run by our PTA. Talk about easy and efficient!

Having my staff on Twitter has changed me as a leader. I am constantly looking for the “little things” to share and tweet. I find myself being more connected to students, hyper aware of learning taking place, being extra grateful, mindful of things to celebrate, and turning our students and staff into the heroes they are. After all, this is OUR story, and we aren’t waiting to share it.

Follow our @pennpanthers staff here!

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.