One of the most important things a school must do is communicate effectively with the community. Sharing news and information during this time of uncertainty is extremely important for schools. Parents and the community want to know answers to many questions like: Will school start on time? Will students be required to wear masks? How will schools insure health and safety measures?
Rather than answering these questions repeatedly over the phone, it is best for administrators and teachers to remain transparent and forthcoming with information for the entire school community, and the easiest way to achieve this is through social media. However, when turning to these sites, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure safe and factual communication.
Choose One Site and Limit Use of Others
In order to properly maintain the efficacy of the posts, it is best to limit your use to one specific site. This will also reduce confusion among community members as there will only be one place to receive a collective form of information. Make sure your teachers use this one site as well. When teachers share classroom information through a separate platform, parents will become confused and frustrated and may stop using your form of communication entirely.
Create, Share, and Uphold Community Standards for Social Media
One of the first things to keep in mind is the standards for social media use. Administrators will need to create a school social media policy and inform teachers on the best way to create, share, and uphold a common set of standards when sharing information. First, determine what information the school will share on the general site and what information teachers will need to share on their individual linked sites. There is no need for teachers to repost information as that could be confusing for parents. One idea is for schools to post all information regarding the entire school’s procedures while teachers post what is only pertinent to their classroom.
Second, determine if you will allow community members to post responses or questions to your site publicly, or if you will use the site for providing information only. Something to keep in mind is one person’s posed question may allow you to answer for many community members, providing extra information that you may not have thought to post originally.
Finally, on the home page of your site, post your standards and expectations for all to use. List what type of information will be provided, how to respectfully post questions or comments, and with how misuse will be dealt. This will ensure your site holds true to its intentions: to provide accurate information to the community.
Always Report Misuse
Anytime you use social media there is a risk of misuse. Once you establish and share rules for your participants to follow you can properly deal with issues that arise. Require teachers to report any social media abuse or misuse to you, the administrator. You can then assess and report that misuse to the platform’s administrator in the appropriate manner. It is important that you report misuse immediately so as to maintain high standards of use on your school’s site.
Don’t Ignore Negative Posts or Comments
If you allow community members to post comments or questions, you will invariably receive comments that are negative toward your decisions. The way you handle these is vital to maintaining high standards for your site. It is important that you develop a plan for dealing with negativity before it occurs. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
- Respond quickly and positively.
- Keep your rebuttal based on facts.
- Don’t engage or promote arguments.
- Don’t get defensive or opinionated as this can lead to an ongoing battle.
- Share the reason for your decision and ensure that it is based on what is best for the safety and welfare of those attending your school.
It is important to remember if the comment contains foul language or attacks the personal well being of the school or a staff member, remove it. You do not have to tolerate abuse. If you know who posted the comment, you might consider calling the person and explaining why you removed the comment and ask to resolve the issue over the phone. Sometimes personal contact allows the opportunity to calmly discuss the matter without the audience of the social media site.
Be Strategic with Social Media Use
Carefully consider what information you post on your site. Set up parameters and review each post to ensure it is providing factual information that benefits the school and community. Not everything needs to be shared. Some information is important for teachers, but not necessary for parents. If parents feel the site is full of educational jargon or information that does pertain to them, they will stop using the site and lose the benefits of a shared community site. Likewise, this is not the place to post your opinions and views on educational topics or district procedures. Your posts need to remain positive and based on providing information families need to know concerning your school’s operation.
Keep Your Ears and Eyes Open
One of the best things you can do is assign one member of your faculty as the administrator of the social media site. This person is the one to post information from the school and monitor posts of others. However, as the school administrator, you will not need to turn a blind eye to the site. It is your responsibility to stay aware of the comments and hashtags attached to your site so that you can address issues before they expand out of control. It is also important to listen to your staff, your students, and your parent organization. Post comments based on what you are hearing that will address these issues and clarify miscommunication.
By developing a plan and maintaining high standards for social media use, your school will be able to provide accurate information on a platform where parents and the community can communicate questions and concerns and you can address them in an unbiased manner.