Times are changing, and it's so important to reach parents where they are at. For many of our parents (and older students), that's on social media. Adults are on Facebook and Instagram, and our students (even at a young age) are logging into Instagram and Snapchat more than ever. Check out these tips to engage with parents on social media and use Instagram in the classroom to build community with your students' parents on and offline!
Share photos with permission.
Many schools and districts have student media releases on file (in connection with paperwork signed at the beginning of the year). Make sure you have permission to share student photos on social media. Also, if there are students that don't have releases, do not violate this. It may be OK to share some of their work, but do not post their faces online. If you have permission, this means that you can post on your private, classroom page. This permission does NOT mean you can post on your own Instagram or Facebook pages. FERPA is a real thing!
Next, send out a technology survey to ask parents where they hang out online. There's no sense building a strong presence on Facebook if your parents are all hanging out on Instagram. Ask your parents what they want to see on social media from you, and post what you are comfortable with. Don't feel like you have to be on every social media channel. Go where the people are! To make it simple, we used the Instagram platform in our classroom.
Create an Instagram with your students.
Parents will be more excited to follow your class Instagram if your students are the ones posting, writing captions, and engaging. My class Instagram starter kit will give you everything you need to get started. Student contracts, sentence starters, and parent permission slips are important elements of building a class presence on social media. Make sure that this is a PRIVATE account. I only add parents who have signed a permission slip and included their Instagram handle. At the end of the year, I delete all of the photos and block the parents so that I can use the same account next year. Or, if you have a lot of email address lying around, you can create a new one!
Make social media a part of your physical classroom.
In our classroom, we created a class Instagram bulletin board to showcase their Instagram posts offline. This is also a great alternative if your parents aren't engaging on social media. An Instagram bulletin board is something you can showcase at conferences or Back to School night. It was always highlight when families came in our classroom and learning was showcased. Plus, admin. really liked seeing what we've been up to!
Use an educational platform.
If your district or school does not allow social media accounts to be used in the classroom, you can try an educational platform like Seesaw that functions like a social media platform. You can share announcements, have students post work, and message parents. Seesaw's free version is an excellent academic alternative to social media. Don't forget to check your school and/or district policies!
Keep it professional.
Make sure that any social media interaction and correspondence with parents is done through your classroom or professional accounts. Did you know that messaging parents about their children via your personal Facebook profile or Instagram could cause problems. You want to make sure you are protected. Although it's easy to send a quick Twitter PM to a parent from your personal account, especially when we are all easily found online, don't do it. I make it a policy not to accept parents as friends on Facebook unless we have a relationship outside of school (i.e. friends from high school, our children are friends, etc.). Even then, I wait until their child is no longer in my class.
Your parents and even some students are engaging on social media. Many parents check their social accounts before their emails each day. Go where the parents are, and make sure they know what is going on in the classroom. Try these tips to engage with parents on social media this school year!