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Apprehensive about social media? Me too. However, as I read, learn, and hear examples of the power social media lends to communicating one’s message I am encouraged by how it can transform our classrooms and schools. As we head back to school, I challenge each of us to choose one social media platform to communicate with our students, their parents and grandparents, and the community.

“Go to the people” (Lao Tzu). Use social media to “go to” your students, their parents and grandparents, and the community. You will find them online. Alex Kirmse, head of mobile at Zappos said data “[R]eaffirms that mobile is growing at an explosive rate… customers are no longer accessing the Web via just desktop computers but from their phones and tablets in more everyday-life scenarios” (here). Earlier this year on National Public Radio I heard the CEO of a major auction house say they use social media to go where the people are. Combined, @Sothebys and @ChristiesInc on Twitter have more than 55,000 followers. Yes, folks care about shoe shopping, art and antiquities; but parents care more about their kids and want to hear from teachers and school leaders.

“Live with them(Lao Tzu). Use social media to “serve” your students, their parents and grandparent, and the community. CEO of Zappos.com, Tony Hsieh, created a “service” rather than “shoe” company. He says that when hiring, Zappos chooses the person who is passionate about providing customers with great service. Its staff does everything they can to instill loyalty in their customers that they keep coming back to shop at Zappos.com. Educators do not necessarily think about their students and students’ parents as being customers of the services they are providing to their students each day; in fact, some educators resist such identification. But similarities can be drawn. Mainly, if you develop a relationship with your students’ parents they will be more willing to work with you throughout the school year. Why is this important? Student learning and parent satisfaction results are key principles making up school accountability systems.

“Love them” (Lao Tzu). Use social media to “manage up” your students. Teacher-parent communication is usually infrequent and usually occurs when the teacher is having difficulty with a youngster. As teachers and leaders we can use social media as the foundation for building a welcoming and genuine interaction with the parents of our students. When we do this, we help parents feel like they have a place in their child’s education; that we as teachers and leaders care about their child; that we understand their needs regarding their child; and that their child is important.

As with students, parents come from diverse backgrounds and are not always easy to connect with. Also, some students might have adults other than parents who serve as their caregivers. Others may have parents who are difficult to get in touch with. No matter the situation, communicating via social media provides each parent or caregiver an opportunity to be part of our classrooms and schools. This school-year make every attempt to connect with parents, listen, and respond to them. Think what parents can do to help teachers work with students to get the same annual growth that Zappos achieved… an average 300 percent annual growth rate!

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Find complete quote by Lao Tzu via http://www.goodreads.com. Visit Goodreads to find “Your next favorite book” because “The right book in the right hands at the right time can change the world” (website).

Learn more about Zappos at http://zappos.com.

Adapted from Pilcher and Largue’s How to Lead Teachers to Become Great. Learn from the authors and leaders with proven results at What’s Right in Education 2013.

iTeacherSuite introduces teachers to practical and research-based tools, resources, and online learning communities for the purpose of helping teachers become highly effective and engaging students to learn and achieve. Check out our Facebook page to connect with teachers and to share teaching strategies (https://www.facebook.com/iTeacherSuite) and our website at http://iTeacherSuite.com for free resources. Follow on Twitter @iTeacherSuite.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com and follow us on Twitter @StuderEducation. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the fifth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.