The work of teacher educators and higher education faculty has long been quantified by number of published peer-reviewed articles. That’s really the only metric by which we are evaluated. And we do that work because it’s our job security and because it’s critical that the evidence base in education, specifically inclusive education, continues to grow. We have always felt that that work is relatively meaningless, though, if our intentions are to influence teachers and kids’ experiences at school. Published articles are paywalled, for starters. Access to the research is costly in both money and time, both precious commodities for teachers.
Enter social media.
In a group text exactly two years ago, in expressing our frustrations about practices that persist despite all the piles of evidence (i.e. clip charts), we began to brainstorm ways of making the evidence visible. Teachers do not have direct access to the research, to the leading experts, to the conferences, but we do. So let’s take that privilege and package it so it is accessible. We built a website, created a Facebook page, and started spreading the word.
We didn’t know what we were doing.
We are not graphic designers, marketers, communications people, influencers in any way. We are assistant professors, teacher educators, teachers, researchers, writers and we do not have any training at all on building a social media presence. So, we fumbled a lot. We learned a lot. And now, in celebration of two years of Teaching Is Intellectual, I share with you what little I know about making our work visible using social media.
- There is a whole world of #teachergram on Instagram. This was brand new to me. There are major teacher influencers there, a robust community with all the inner workings of community, friendships, bullying, leaders, organizing, agendas, movements. It’s all there.
- If you want to get started, set up a new, public Instagram account. I recommend making it separate from your personal account.
- Start with hashtags. #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #teachergram will provide a good introduction.
- Follow a ton of accounts and then curate your feed. Find your people, the ones who speak to you, who resonate with you. Pay less attention to the number of followers and more attention to the content provided. Not all big accounts will speak to you.
- Listen first. One mistake I made was jumping in without understanding all the dynamics at work there. I learned the hard way. Scroll around and get a feel for the place over time.
- Determine how you can contribute, what your expertise and knowledge can bring. Everyone brings something unique so know your voice is needed!
- Instagram and Facebook have very different styles and audiences. We curate both in different ways but you can select just one platform to get started. Twitter has a huge teacher community as well!
- Captions are everything. Spend time developing your thoughts so your caption can stand alone. This took practice for me.
- It’s not easy. I regularly get messages asking me about how to set up a social media presence and as soon as I start talking, people are like whoa whoa whoa that’s a lot. It is. It’s a huge commitment and really does require consistent attention. Followers do not just come, you have to build that community and nurture it. I can get very bummed about the fact that we “only” have about 3500 followers on Instagram and 1700 on Facebook in two years time. That’s not great. But then I remind myself that that’s a LOT of people we wouldn’t otherwise get to interact with!
- People will come and go. You cannot live and die by your follower count.
- Know what you want to do with your little space on social media. Stay true to what brought you there. It can be easy to get distracted but know who you are and what you know.
And, yes, we’re writing about this work for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals. Because I need tenure and because bridging the “research to practice gap” means researchers need to change too. We cannot keep doing the same things and wondering why we’re mostly irrelevant to teachers doing the work every day. We are committed to teachers and kids and families so we want to be where they are, seeking answers to the questions they’re asking, providing access in whatever ways we can. We haven’t cracked the code, by any means – we are trying, though. We are learning. We are visible.