When I first started my teacher social media profiles (shameless plug: @magicalmsmurphy), I went back and forth deciding whether or not I should make it solely centered towards fellow teachers, or if it should become a resource for my students and their families. I was really intrigued by the idea of having a social media profile that my students and their families could interact with but also was not sure how to go about doing that. Here are some steps if you are planning on bringing social media to your classroom.
Before making a social media account for your classroom:
- Check with your school site or district to see if this is allowed! Different schools have different policies. If your Instagram/Twitter will be directly associated with your school, it is possible that permission slips that the school uses for their own media content can also apply to your profile. In this digital age where it is commonplace for schools to have their own social media accounts, rules are also changing for how teachers can better integrate social media, but cover all your bases and ask your administration!
- Let families know! I write about my social media in the syllabus, that parents sign-off on, so they are all aware of it and even follow it for updates! If you are implementing social media later on in the year, send home a letter to families to let them know how you will be using social media and get permission slips, if necessary.
- If you teach younger students, you should be especially careful about photographing students. You can also consider making your profile private so only students and families can access the account. Again, check in with your specific school’s policy for this.
- Think about the function of your account. Is it more for families or for students? As a high school teacher, while I have some parents follow me, a majority of my followers are students (and fellow teachers!) who can see updates.
Ways you can use your classroom social media:
- Showcasing school work: Just like displaying student work on the walls, this is another opportunity to showcase impressive student work. This is a badge of honor for students who get really excited if their work was selected to be showcased!
- Demonstrate what you are doing in your class to the community: This is also a way to show all of the exciting, creative, or innovative things you are doing in your classroom! Whether it is a short video of students interacting, images of classwork in action, or even some pictures of what your classroom looks like, your social media can act as a portfolio of what you are doing in class to show families and community members.
- Homework and test reminders: Using tweets or Instagram stories to remind students about important deadlines has been a great resource! I have had many students thank me for posting reminders about assignments that are due. Many students do not check their email, and while that is a habit that I want to instill in my students, I also want to make sure I am reaching them on a platform that they are more likely to interact with. When students are mindlessly scrolling their Instagram feeds and your reminder pops up, it will help refocus their goals! You are less likely to get excuses for why students forgot to complete an assignment when you are going above and beyond to help them be successful.
- Display school-wide events as well: While your focus may be your specific classroom, you can also post about school sporting events, pep rallies, and fundraisers!
- Inspirational quotes or images: The occasional seemingly unrelated motivational quote or image can also serve as inspiration for both you and your followers!
- Help for other teachers: Now, you may decide to gear your social media solely to your students, which is great! But I also wanted my Instagram to serve a greater purpose for the entire educational community as well. It is perfectly normal to want to keep these worlds separate, but I felt that if I could display student work while simultaneously giving tips to teachers who want to implement this strategy, it is feeding two birds with one scone!
- Archive content from other teachers: Use this account as a means for your own professional development as well! There are so many amazing teachers on social media and I use this separate account to like, retweet, or bookmark ideas that I may want to implement in the future! Keeping a separate teacher account for this helps me be more organized and focused in my professional development!
Things to always consider:
- Never follow students: They may ask you to, but it is never appropriate to follow individual students!
- Keep personal life separate: Try your best to keep your personal life separate if this is an account you will have students follow. Of course, teaching permeates all aspects of our life, so there are aspects of your life outside of class time that would be appropriate to post, but there should be a distinct difference between this account and a personal one. In terms of accounts you are following: do not follow your friends or family, instead, follow education-related accounts, other teachers, or accounts relevant to your school or local community.
- Keep your interactions professional: Let students know your specific policy on interacting with them on social media. I personally allow students to Direct Message me with questions or comments relevant to our class, but I let them know that they must sign all messages with their name and period number (because I will not click on any student profile to see who it is). Using social media can help build community with your students in a really beautiful way, but it is still necessary to keep strict and appropriate boundaries.
Overall, using social media has really empowered me as a teacher and has my communication with students and their families much easier and more organized. Feel free to share your own experiences with using social media, or any questions you still have, in the comments below!