Three Ways to Connect Schools and Families through Social Media
By Tisha Shipley
Hello 2014–15 school year. Let’s make you the best school year yet!
As this year begins, try to think of new ways to involve students’ families in the classroom and communicate with them. Whether parents are together or separated, or grandparents and other family members are the primary caregivers, everyone needs to be involved in a child’s school success.
As educators, we know working with families is a top priority, but we often have so many other things consuming our time that it becomes secondary. We must make building reciprocal relationships a top priority. Building and sustaining relationships with your families is the best thing you can do to support the children in your classroom. You must be open and honest with your families about how your classroom is run, how they can get involved, and what things they should be working on at home.
As times have changed, there are many new ways to communicate with families. When I was in the classroom, I sent home weekly print newsletters, made phone calls, and set up conferences. I also had parent nights, picnics, open houses, and daily volunteering opportunities. Now, with the prevalence of social media, there are various new ways to communicate with families:
- Pinterest: Pinterest boards are an easy way for teachers to share information and ideas so that families can stay informed and find new, creative ways to help their children at home. Teachers can make a board that has current research on different educational topics or issues or create one that may include subject-specific activities for children to do at home. My favorite board is one with recipes to make at home with you children! Each board gives families the opportunity to take the concepts you are teaching at school and engage children at home. If a family has a Pinterest account or the Pinterest smartphone app, which are both free, they can see your pins and will therefore know there is something they can be working on at home.
- Twitter: A Twitter account allows the teacher to follow other education professionals and organizations that tweet about education-related topics, activities, articles, and ideas. When a family has a Twitter, they are able to follow the teacher, see these different ideas and topics, and read about important issues related to with children and their education. The teacher’s educational/professional Twitter account must be kept separate from a personal Twitter account.
- Classroom Website: Anyone can design a classroom website and your website can be built to include anything you want it to. Some important things teachers can include on their websites may be daily schedules, weekly or monthly calendars, snack calendars, classroom rules, dress code information, things you are working on at school, engaging activities to try at home, pictures of students (with permission of your school and the families), and anything else you feel is important. A classroom website can also include a blog on which you can post a newsletter or write about ideas, articles, or topics you want to share with your families.
However, despite the prevalence of social media, not everyone choses to use it or has access to it. There are people who don’t have iPhones or computers (such as grandparents raising grandchildren), so a teacher must still send home notes, make phone calls, send letters, and meet face-to-face with family members whenever possible—research shows this is the best way to build relationships with families. When done well, social media communication should overlap with traditional communication and ultimately relay the same information. In addition, to help parents and grandparents who might not be as familiar with social media, it may be useful to send home information about your social media platforms in a written newsletter and explain them thoroughly at parent night. Some may need help setting up these pages (it may even be helpful to set up brief training sessions at the beginning of the year), but once you have your families on board, social media is a great and easy way to keep families up to date on what is going on with their children.
Tisha Shipley received a doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction from Northcentral University, a master’s degree in elementary education/administration, and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She has taught multiple grades at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th grade, and served as a cheer sponsor and a principal. Most recently, Shipley served as director of preschool programs at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Shipley presents at early childhood conferences and helps teachers in their classrooms. She has also started a
teacher website, www.busyclassroom.weebly.com, to help teachers, aspiring teachers, administrators, and parents.