A few years ago, I was astonished to see that Sweden turned over their country Twitter account to a different person that lived in the country for a week. Even though it was meant to be an “experiment” that lasted only two months, if you look at the account today (about three years later from when it started), they are still using the same process. What it showed to many people that the country is defined by its people, and not just geography. Although there have been times where the experiment went wrong, they still maintained the process.
I remember asking leaders in a room if they would be willing to do the same thing with their school Twitter account? So often we try to “control” the message about our school, but in reality, the branding of the school is not defined by what we say about ourselves, but what our students say about their experience. You can have the best results in the world on whatever measure you want to share with people, but when a child goes home and says they hate their experience, parents might find any numbers provided insignificant. Although many agreed that would be so “cool”, I did not see anyone jump in and take the risk.
Fast forward to 2014, and I recently saw Jason Markey, a good friend and principal, share that they have turned over their school account to one person a week within Leyden School in Illinois, similar to the Sweden Twitter account. If you have followed Leyden Schools at all, you will know that they are doing some amazing things and their #LeydenPride hashtag is a favourite for me to follow because they have really empowered the kids. I first saw the account when a student started sharing for a week (currently it is the AP for the school) as seen below:
Although Jason is a remarkable leader, he will be the first to tell you that this is the work of his community (and he truly means community which includes parents, teachers, and especially students) coming together and doing some pretty amazing things, but the reality of this account is that it starts and stops with Jason. If something goes awry, at the end of the day, he will be accountable as principal of the school. In many schools, it is written into policy that the principal is responsible for all communications of the organization, which doesn’t necessarily mean they are responsible for creating all avenues to communicate, but that they are accountable for what happens. Yet from knowing Jason, he not only exhibits courage, but the willingness to take risks to create better opportunities for kids, and more importantly, he trusts the community that he serves.
I am reminded of a quote that Shelley Wright wrote years ago:
“But kids often defy expectations if you give them opportunity.”
I have seen schools actually tell their teachers to NOT connect their social media accounts to the school because they were so worried about what could happen, and then I watch a school like Leyden actually turn their account over to their community.
Brilliant and courageous work down by Jason and his team. Major kudos to them. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.
To learn more about Jason and his school, take a look at his blog, the #LeydenPride hashtag, and the “LeydenLearn365” blog. Also read this great post from one of the Leyden students on their perspective regarding social media.
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