With schools across the country closed for weeks or months because of the coronavirus pandemic, Superintendents and other school and district leaders are seeking creative ways to stay connected to families and staff.
Of course, your first priority is to communicate what your school communities need to know – about school closures, meal sites, distance learning, health resources, and more. You’ve sent emails, updated your website, and spoken to the press about these critical facts. But how do you continue to reach out to the students and adults stuck at home, when there’s nothing new to report?
This global emergency presents Superintendents with a powerful opportunity to do more than simply convey information. As students, parents, and staff (and all of us) grow increasingly anxious, frustrated, and at times overwhelmed, we look to our leaders to provide reassurance and relief. This is a great chance for Superintendents to get creative – to lead with professionalism and authority, but also to communicate in ways that let your humanity and personality shine through.
Social media is a powerful tool to help you do just that.
I love this Tweet from my colleague Jane Tremblay, Superintendent of the Lynnfield (MA) Public Schools, conceding a new perspective:
Dear Social Media and Technology: I apologize for being so hard on you over the years. I am grateful that you are helping me stay connected with friends and colleagues during these challenging times. Gratefully, Me
— Jane Tremblay (@LPS_Tremblay) March 18, 2020
Whatever your attitudes may have been about social media in the past, now is the time to embrace it.
Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other platforms, remind your families and staff how to connect with you there (include a link on your COVID-19 web page, in emails, etc.), and make a point of posting regularly. This shouldn’t require a significant time commitment – even just a few minutes a day.
Need inspiration? Here are some content ideas for your posts:
- Record a short video message. In these circumstances, no one expects high-quality production value. Your smartphone will do just fine. Upload a short, upbeat, informal message letting your community know you’re thinking about them. You may even consider a weekly message.
- Say thank you. Single out employees or employee groups who are going above and beyond. Post photos of food services staff and custodians hard at work.
- Acknowledge partners and supporters. Communities are coming together to support schools in countless ways. Post messages and photos thanking the agencies and organizations stepping up for your students – health departments, police, PTOs, churches, nonprofits, and more. Tag them in your posts to let them know you appreciate them.
- Share your own experience. Let your followers see that you’re making adjustments in your personal and professional life, too. Some Superintendents are posting photos of activities at home with their families or a peaceful walk outdoors.
- Send encouragement to those who need it most. If your heart is breaking for members of the Class of 2020 missing out on the spring of their senior year, post a shout-out to them.
- Suggest learning activities. With each passing day, parents are looking for new ways to keep their kids active and engaged. Offer some ideas for fun games and projects that can also enhance learning.
- Invite your followers to share what they’re doing. Ask students, parents, and educators to post photos of distance learning in action, or other glimpses into life at home. Consider establishing a unique hashtag for your district to capture these posts, as the Novi (MI) Community School District has done with #NoviTogether.
- Highlight work that is still moving forward. Some districts are engaged in building projects and other major initiatives that are advancing even while schools are closed. Assure your community that some of your operations are still up and running. (Conversely, if major projects that the community follows closely are also on hold, share that news, too.)
- Celebrate students and staff who are making a difference. Post examples of students and adults doing their part, such as sewing masks for medical personnel or delivering groceries to seniors. Also share opportunities for others to help out!
Here’s a fantastic video message from Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero of the Portland (OR) Public Schools. The tone is just right (upbeat, optimistic, grateful, but also appropriately serious about the pandemic), and it conveys a lot of great information about everything happening across the district on behalf of families and staff. It’s 12 minutes long because he has a lot to cover, but it’s not one continuous headshot, thanks to editing with B-roll and nice graphics.
Here are some examples from around the country of Superintendents staying in touch via Twitter:
— Dr. Sal Menzo (@SalMenzo) March 18, 2020
To our coaches (including teachers, band directors, ASB advisors, PE teachers, journalism advisors, theater teachers, and all others who see the power of building leaders) Adversity doesn’t build character… It reveals it. Lead on! These bumps are temporary #COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/O1sXTB7wyX
— Don Austin (@DonAustin_PAUSD) March 26, 2020
A big thank you to our @PPSConnect Nutrition Services workers for stepping up to make sure our city’s children and youth are provided free meals at numerous locations while schools are closed. Appreciate you coming in for final instructions this morning. pic.twitter.com/8YhMHDWl0e
— Guadalupe Guerrero (@Super_GGuerrero) March 16, 2020
Hey folks who want to pitch in with our @BostonSchools #AllHandsOnDeck #Rally, here’s how-Follow link below. We have to ensure social distancing of volunteers & ensure their safety and safety of our students-so thanks for your patience as we connect as many volunteers as possible https://t.co/IpcWtvmYNU
— Brenda Cassellius (@BCassellius) March 24, 2020
— JJR (@superswansea16) March 24, 2020
— Dianne Kelly, Ed.D. (@RPS_Super) March 21, 2020
Today while distributing meals alongside our incredible @HighlineSchools team, I was rewarded by students blowing kisses to me from their cars. There has never been a better time to be a superintendent. #WeAreHighline @AASAHQ @wasa_oly
— Susan Enfield (@SuptEnfield) March 25, 2020
To teenagers everywhere: everything is so hard right now. I feel the saddest for you. It’s not easy being your age and dealing with all of this. You are amazing, you’ve handled this with grace and confidence, and you are making a difference. ♥️♥️♥️
— Dr. Julie Hackett (@lexingtonsuper) March 22, 2020
— Steve Matthews (@docsmatthews) March 25, 2020
What Kids Want To Know About Coronavirus: An Original Comic : Goats and Soda : NPR https://t.co/Z4ARgwX6rb
— Deborah Gist (@deborahgist) March 16, 2020
400 masks dropped to Emerson this morning. We are thrilled to be able to help. pic.twitter.com/bfLQUwyPAs
— CPS CCHS Super (@cps_cchs) March 22, 2020
Today’s read aloud is brought to you by Tucker 5th grade teacher Mrs. Kennedy and her helper. Who doesn’t love Shel Silverstein? @Cunninghamelem @GloverSchool Collicot and Tucker, too!https://t.co/SQoQOPQ9Zt
— Mary Gormley (@SuptMPS) March 25, 2020
— CVCSD SUPERINTENDENT (@CVCSD_Supt) March 25, 2020
— Judith Evans (@JudithEvans1) March 24, 2020
A partir del lunes 23 de marzo, los paquetes de aprendizaje y las comidas también estarán disponibles en la Escuela Whittier de 11 de la mañana a la 1 de la tarde de lunes a viernes. https://t.co/0WJ2djQDRp
— Priya Tahiliani (@TahilianiPriya) March 19, 2020
— Jane Tremblay (@LPS_Tremblay) March 17, 2020
During this time of school closures, we are, responsibly, accelerating GOB construction projects across @MDCPS. Promise made, promise kept…with social@distancing accommodations. https://t.co/Efpgy3yLjF
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) March 25, 2020