Social media can be a powerful tool to coordinate and connect with parents. At the school level, this is important work for everyone, from the classroom teacher to the principal. Some districts even have paid school employees called parent coordinators who are responsible for engaging with and involving parents in the school community. It is their job to create a welcoming environment for parents as well as to identify and address parent and related school/community issues.
While many of us are familiar with traditional notes home in the backpack, flyers and newsletters, social media takes our ability to create, maintain and grow connections with parents to a whole new level.
Here are some ideas that explain how.
Parent Coordinator Sara Cottone of P.S. 46 in Staten Island, N.Y., welcomes parents to “like” the Facebook page she created for them. Most recently, the page was a terrific vehicle for sharing planning and logistics information as it pertained to the bus strike. Earlier this year it was a godsend as one of the few ways parents could communicate during Superstorm Sandy. The page is also used to update parents on trips, school performances and other events like picture day. The page is interactive, too. Parents can use the page to comment, ask questions and find out information. Cottone and other parents are always on hand to respond and provide feedback.
At The Kurt Hahn School Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Principal Matt Brown goes around the school with his cellphone to catch teacher and student greatness. The feed goes right on the school website. For parent coordinators who don’t have a tweeting principal, not to worry! You can be the one who goes around and tweets the terrific things that are happening in school. Just remember, only use first names, and if you plan to use a picture you must have consent.
Technology teacher Mr. Casal at P.S. 10 in Brooklyn, N.Y., is working with his parent coordinator to start a blog to help her simplify fielding calls. He explained that often she’ll answer the same question six times a day. While he doesn’t want her to stop helping parents, he’d love for her to have an avenue to post information to help mitigate the phone time she spends so she can devote more time to the other parts of her job that she loves like face-to-face meetings, tours, outreach, etc.
Urban elementary-school teacher Stepan Pruchnicky uses Tumbler as a tool for kids to be stakeholders in their education. On the site, students post artwork they’ve created, videos of performances and presentations, stories they’ve written, game instructions and much more. What a great way to let parents see the work their kids are doing! You can take a look.
Pruchnicky also invites parents to participate in their child’s learning. This can be as simple as suggesting that parents ask their children about a particular post on the class site or more complex such as inviting them to comment on posts or even adding their own content.
Creating a channel on YouTube or on other video sites is a great way to capture what is going on in your school to share with parents. High-school principal Johnny Bevacqua uses the St. Patrick Regional Secondary School YouTube channel as a vehicle for parents to watch student council, school plays, alumni memories and more. It’s also a great way for to share updates and announcements with parents. Here are St. Patrick school’s privacy principles and consent form.
Principal Nancy Amling at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies in Manhattan, N.Y., connects and coordinates with parents by using live-streaming services like LiveStream. She provides parents a way to see right into her school even when she can’t be there by streaming things like PTA meetings, morning announcements and more. Parent coordinators are in a great position to work with their school leader to set up a stream to share with parents who are unable to make face-to-face visits to the school for important events.
So, what do you think? Could some of these resources be helpful in building the home-school connection where you work? Which ideas do you think will be, or have you experienced as being, successful? Are there challenges or concerns that are getting in the way of you implementing some of these ideas? If so, what are they?
Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997 and is the author of “Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning” and The Innovative Educator blog.