Principal Carrie Jackson (@jackson_carrie) answers 5Q with Texas Principal about Keller Timberview Middle School’s (TMS) use of #TMSHawkChat to engage parents and other stakeholders.
What prompted you to attempt to engage stakeholders at TMS through your Twitter and blog accounts?
After opening Timberview Middle School last year and communicating mostly in a reactive mode, we decided we wanted to create a proactive process for informing and engaging our parents about our school initiatives and accomplishments. We realized that we needed to build trust with our stakeholders and that we wanted to tell our own story rather than let others tell it for us.
One of the things we noticed was our families are very active on Facebook and community blogs. I already had a principal blog in place from the time we started our campus web site two years ago; I just changed the way I used it. I began to use it to tell positive stories and to reach out to people, rather than to defend or explain our methodologies. With the movement to our Facebook page (from a closed Facebook group we had last year), I was able to do some micro-blogging and get parent responses. Communication via Facebook began to transform into two-way interaction.
We had also been using a campus Twitter account for one-way tweeting specific events and information. Our use of Twitter changed when I began using my own personal Twitter account in February of 2012 after my assistant principal Brett Stamm (@Bstamm00) told me about the Personal Learning Network (PLN) concept. We learned through our PLN how leaders like Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) and Joe Mazza (@joe_mazza) were using #bhschat and #ptchat to interact with parents and their community. Then we looked again at how we were using Twitter and decided to create #TMSHawkChat.
The idea for #TMSHawkChat was initially a town hall-type concept, a chance for parents to ask questions and have them answered; however, after observing the #ptchat model, we found the question and answer discussion to be a positive structure for focused interaction. We did our very first #TMSHawkChat that way in April and have found the format to be the right fit for our needs.
2. How are you using your personal and campus Twitter accounts, #TMSHAWKCHAT, and professional blogs to increase parent engagement?
We use all of these tools as part of our comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan. Our goal is to connect with families, nurture and support students, and to become a respected part of our community.
I use the (@jackson_carrie) Twitter account to interact at a personal level and write about subjects that interest me as well as moderate the #TMSHAWKCHAT. The school account (@TimberviewMS) is utilized to brand and promote our campus, interact with stakeholders, and retweet content on behalf of the school. I will tweet links to my personal blog from my personal Twitter account, while using the school account to tweet links to the official school principal’s blog hosted on our website.
3. What has been the response of parents, staff, and students to your #TMSHAWKCHAT?
The most exciting response has come from our incoming 5th grade families. We held a special #TMSHawkChat just for them the day after our parent orientation night. The most powerful moment during that chat happened when our incoming 5th grade parents had questions about the school, and a 5th grade student and some of our current 5th grade parents were answering those questions.
We started out with a handful of 5th and 8th grade teachers engaged in the conversation on Twitter and via #TMSHawkChat, and now we have teachers from all content areas and grade levels, including electives participating. Recently we have averaged ten staff members contributing in our #TMSHawkChat which has resulted in a sub-culture on our campus that has strengthened the bond between grade levels, teams, and campus administration.
4. What benefits to the TMS community have resulted from your engagement efforts?
Connectedness and relationships have been a major benefit of our engagement work. Our commitment to digital engagement through social media has strengthened and supported our in-person interactions in the following ways:
5. What are some lessons learned that you would share with other educators who want to replicate what you are doing at TMS to engage parents?