School and district leaders can—and should—be using social media in their work.
That’s the message shared by Stephanie McConnell, a superintendent in the Hawkins Independent School District in Texas, and Salome Thomas-El, a K-8 principal in Delaware, during an Education Week K-12 Essentials forum on Oct. 13.
At the event, McConnell and Thomas-El provided insights and advice for school leaders who are hesitant to post on certain social platforms or unsure how to use them.
Here are three reasons why they say it’s an essential tool.
Thomas-El got his start using social media around a decade ago when some of his college-aged mentees told him to check out Twitter.
He’s never looked back. He quickly discovered that the platform had a rich community of teachers and school leaders that he could learn from.
“It was almost like I was going to a conference every day,” he noted during the panel, as he detailed being struck by how he “was learning so much from these people I had never met in person.”
McConnell had a similar experience when getting started on social media, discovering that it was more than solely an entertainment platform, but an equally effective networking and professional learning platform. In 2016 she started a private Facebook group for aspiring and current school leaders to facilitate those discussions. The nearly 65,000 members of the Principal Principles Leadership Group use this space to share resources and ideas with one another.
As Thomas-El puts it, “if you’re not listening, you’re not learning.”
Thomas-El admitted that he “looked at social media early on as just a way to connect with people I already knew.” He said he wished he had grasped earlier how powerful it could be for connecting with school leaders and stakeholders outside of his network.
Now both education leaders connect with people they’ve met through social media in the real world. Thomas-El takes it a step further and makes a goal to meet at least one person that he’s connected with on social media, but never in-person, at each conference or event he attends.
Social media can be great for networking with peers, but also for reaching a younger and more diverse audience. According to McConnell, making these outside connections is essential to become a better leader because “we are learning from their experiences and gaining different perspectives.”
Connecting with other educators can be a great place to start for those looking to dip their toes into social media. Thomas-El shared a list of other school leaders he follows for advice and inspiration:
To amplify your message
Social media can also help school leaders extend the message of their schools’ mission — if they give it a chance.
“It’s amazing to see how many school leaders have embraced social media, but it’s also surprising to see how many have not,” said Thomas-El. While both leaders acknowledged the concerns others might have in putting themselves out there, McConnell pointed out that “the value of social media outweighs the fear of it.”
“The view of a school from the inside, looking out is much different than from the outside, looking in. We have to tell our stories and social media gives us that platform,” said Thomas-El.
In a September article, McConnell detailed how she started using social media as a tool to “communicate exactly where we’re going with our staff and with our community.” She now uses social media as her main tool to communicate with all her stakeholders, not only sharing information about school events but also showcasing her district’s wins.
For more leadership insights and inspiration, connect with Principal Thomas-El and Superintendent McConnell on social media. To dive deeper into what good communication looks like for school and district leaders, explore the Effective Communication for School Leaders special report.