There is plenty of discussion and policies against teachers friending their students on Facebook (and other social media outlets) and rightfully so. I agree that a teacher being Facebook friends with a student opens up too many unneeded risks. I am a fan however of a principal/assistant principal being friends with their staff on social media, with a few things to consider. First of all, everyone knows their school culture best and if this seems completely out of left field for you, maybe consider working toward this, but I don’t recommend
immediately sending friend requests out to the entire staff. In fact, I don’t recommend being the one that initiates the friend request. I don’t ever want to put teachers in the awkward position where they feel pressured to accept my friend request. Facebook connections can come from a conversation with a staff member. While asking about their child’s college experiences or their newest child/grandchild, usually pictures will be shown (and often these photos are shown via Facebook). Sometimes a Facebook discussion arises and I show interest in wanting to stay up-to-date on the events we are discussing. The teacher has the option to friend me without any pressure of doing so. This may sound contrived as I write about it here, but these conversations are genuine and very meaningful to me. I truly want to build and maintain relationships with the entire staff.
Why do I like to be Facebook friends with staff? Some principals, if not many, would disagree with me, but I have experienced many benefits from having this additional connection. Notice I said, “additional.” Facebook doesn’t replace the face-to-face relationships, it is supplemental. We have a large staff of over 40 teachers and around 30 instructional assistants, and even more support staff. With this many people, it can be challenging to stay up-to-date on important milestones, life challenges, and personal accomplishments. Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter have been tremendous resources for me when it comes to supporting, valuing, and staying connected with staff. Our lives are busy and the day-to-day grind can easily cause me to not recognize a birthday or remember that a teacher just welcomed their first grandchild into the world. Because of social media, I am able to experience some of these monumental and meaningful life moments with staff and make a face-to-face connection with them.
I have been told that I have made someone’s day on a few different occasions because I asked about their sick mother or inquired how their daughter is enjoying college, or simply wished them a “Happy Birthday.” I love that I am able to keep things personal, even in our large school community. Even though our school family is large, we are close. Social media is obviously not the only reason for this, but it is a very helpful asset.
“Having genuine connections between team members can be integral to overcoming challenges and growing. No matter what role you fill in a team, you can take steps to genuinely connect with your co-workers and go beyond the typical, surface level, ‘How was your weekend?’ interactions. This will result in a more connected, dedicated team that can generate more success.” ~ ZUBIN MOWLAVI, Entrepreneur, Musician, Investor
I used to think that once I “went to the dark side” of education by becoming an administrator, all personal relationships would need to be cutoff and replaced with a professional, less connected relationship, but after reading many articles that stated the contrary, I was excited to maintain what seemed more natural to me anyway – valuing and connecting with those that make our school great. As Zubin Mowlavi discusses in the article, Make Genuine Connections at Work, and Success Will Follow, genuine relationships lead to a more dedicated and connected team and these relationships start with you. Always be available, consistent, helpful, and in the moment. The payoff will be a more positive school culture, a stronger team, and a tighter community.