My #OneSmallThing: Growing & Connecting On Social Media

by | 09.1.17

Principal at @Webb_Elem, White House Champion of Change, TEDx Speaker, NSBA 20 to Watch & Co-Founder & Co-Author of @KidsDeserveIt. Follow him on Twitter @TechNinjaTodd.

I’ll admit: When my assistant superintendent first encouraged me to connect with teachers on Twitter, I was reluctant. I had no idea where to start. And when I finally gave in, I spent the first couple months as a lurker: I was learning from others, retweeting and favoriting teacher’s tweets, but not actually sharing. One of my mentors eventually reached out to me and said, “Why aren’t you sharing? You do a disservice to others when you don’t share your ideas and experiences. In education, we’re supposed to be growing together.”

That stuck with me. I still remember when I put out my first tweet, and somebody favorited it. It gave me this great feeling: “Oh! Somebody liked what I had to say!” I started sharing more. I started blogging. I connected with teachers all over the country. Now some of my best friends are people I met on social media.

Each year, growing a little more on social media is my #OneSmallThing. It’s that constant PD that I have 24 hours a day, seven days a week where I can check in with people, gain new ideas, see what’s going on and better myself. Because of connections on Twitter, I’ve been nudged to make important changes in my practice, such as filling my bookshelves with more books featuring diverse characters. I’ve learned about exciting local opportunities to grow and found one of my favorite conferences, EdCampDallas. I’ve made REAL friendships. And because I’ve experienced what social media can do in a teacher’s life, I want to help other teachers get connected.

From making your account public to updating your profile photo, those little steps to be more authentic make a difference. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is you have to be ready to share. It’s a give and take. Here are three things I tell teachers who are starting out:

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to anybody, regardless of the size of their following. The worst thing somebody will say is “no,” or just nothing at all. Nobody’s going to be mean to you for trying to connect.
  2. Find value by finding your people. Find a Twitter hashtag applicable to your area of expertise or interest, and there you’ll find your people. Start connecting with them. See if they run a weekly Twitter chat, and join in. Just watch the chat go by at first if you need to take it in, then start throwing ideas out there. Here’s a complete guide to Twitter for educators.
  3. Don’t give up. These are small steps – and some might take a while. Stick with it. Social media is like Disney World: If you’ve never been to Disney World, you will never understand how magical it is. Until you’ve experienced the power of social media, you won’t understand what I’m talking about.

When I run across a tweet or post from someone who is engaging for the first time, I try to connect. I might just favorite a tweet or send a message saying, “Hey, welcome to social media. If I can help in any way, let me know.” Those of us who have discovered the power of social media have an important role to play. There are a lot of teachers who join social media but quickly leave, because they don’t find their people. By doing a few small, easy things, the rest of us can make sure they stay.

There are two early career teachers with whom I connected on Twitter, and now I engage with them in a kind of long-distance virtual mentorship. It’s not that I have all the answers. We just share ideas and resources over the phone or Google Hangout or FaceTime or Facebook – and I learn a lot from them. These aren’t big undertakings. Little check-ins and encouragements go a long way to let other teachers know there is somebody who understands and gets it.

By looking outside our schools, we can find new practices to introduce to our colleagues and students. And by sharing the powerful things happening in our own school communities, we support teachers at other schools, too. That’s the real power in education: No matter how many followers we have, no matter how many years we’ve been in this, we can all learn from one another. 

Todd Nesloney is an elementary school principal in Navasota, Texas, and co-author of Kids Deserve It!. Follow Todd on Twitter @TechNinjaTodd.

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