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Grow Your Career Via Social Media

Think social media is just for baby photos and cat videos? You may be missing out on a valuable professional development tool.

Are you using social media? More than two-thirds of Americans (age 12 and up) are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites, according to a 2014 social media survey by Edison Research. 

We spend more of our online time on social media than on email or other major Internet activities. For most of us, social media sites are places to keep in touch with friends and family and share news, photos and interesting tidbits. But these platforms can be valuable tools for educators seeking growth, advancement and career development.

We asked several educators how they’re using social media and what they recommend others do—and not do.

Protect your image

“Don’t put anything on social media that would be embarrassing” if found by a potential employer, advises Mary C. Clement, Ph.D., professor of teacher education at Berry College in Georgia and author of numerous books and articles on teacher employment including Your Guide to Finding a Job in Education.

Many of the early-career, younger teachers she works with “are on social media constantly” and have Facebook pages. “I tell student teachers [to] have an outsider go to your Facebook page—someone who isn’t your friend—to see what pops up, just to double-check and make sure it’s all very professional.”

The vast majority of employers go to Facebook to see if they can find the person they’re considering for final interview. If they find anything unprofessional on your public Facebook page, Clement says, they might not offer you the interview, much less a job. Many parents search their child’s teacher’s name on Google and Facebook, too.

Check all of your social media accounts’ privacy settings to make sure your public profile information and posts are appropriate for viewing by your future or current employers and other educators.

What about your right to express your preferences and opinions?

“My student teachers always bring that up,” Clement says. “Yes, you have a right to freedom of expression, but you have to remain professional.” When you work in the public school system, you’re being paid with tax dollars, which makes you a public servant and role model.
 
Even seemingly harmless pieces of information, such as the type of music you like, could be an issue, Clement warns. Heavy metal may seem fine to you but horrifying to a parent.

Ask your college professor or another unbiased professional to review your online presence. “I really recommend that all student teachers and teachers who are alumni of a university use their career centers,” she says. Request a one-on-one appointment to review your resume. During the review, ask the counselor to check your social media pages for anything that should be taken down.

Shield your students

Many educators use their social media sites, websites and blogs as online portfolios where they post their resumes, lesson plans and other materials, “but they have to be careful to not put any pictures of students on these sites,” Dr. Clement cautions. Technically and legally, she says, you must have the express written permission of the child’s parents “even if it’s your personal website that you’re only going to give out to employers.”

She suggests taking pictures of the classroom instead. Show how you set up a classroom for good classroom management or shoot images of interactive bulletin boards you made. Make video clips showing you standing in front of a bulletin board, white board or screen giving a five-minute mini-lesson. But use “no pictures of children, no pictures of students” even in group shots and or photos showing only backs of heads.

Define your goal

Decide what you want to achieve on social media, advises Joseph M. Davis, a National Board Certified Career and Technical Education Teacher at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Maryland, who has taught for 10 years. “Are you trying to find a new job, build your personal brand or connect with your network to help others?”

Paul France, an upper elementary educator at AltSchool in San Francisco, uses social media to collaborate with educators beyond his immediate network of teachers. He says social media is a great resource for tools and information educators need “to give our kids the best experience possible.” The diversity of social media widens perspective and helps educators “see that there are, in fact, myriad ways to teach the same thing.”

Kathryn Starke, a children’s author and literacy expert who spent 13 years serving as a K-5 literacy specialist in Richmond, Virginia, uses social media to reach teachers around the world. She travels nationwide “to support, motivate and inspire teachers to learn more and grow” as reading educators.

Posting to her “Miss Starke’s Remarks” blog and posting educational articles on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest has helped her make many connections in educational groups and made her name “a literary lifeline” in urban literacy education.

Teacher recruiter and career consultant Tracy Brisson, former director of teacher recruitment for New York City Public Schools, won an award for her effective use of social media in teacher recruitment and dedicated a chapter of her book, “Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter: How to Create an Extraordinary Resume and Hook Your Dream Job,” to using social media as a tool for teacher leadership.

Make social media work for you

Social media is “one of the best ways to develop professionally in a way that is interest-based and self-guided,” France says. But it takes a strong commitment to maintain a presence. “Just do it,” he says.

It’s important to keep your social media accounts active. “A lack of presence on social media—or an inconsistent presence—removes your voice from the conversation almost immediately,” France explains. “Social media is dynamic and ephemeral.” Those who don’t keep their social sites active “can very easily dissolve into the background of the conversation,” he says.

“I try to hop on Twitter daily just to see what others are saying, and I’ve been making it a goal recently to commit to [participating in] at least two Twitter Chats per month,” France adds.

Think of social media as integral part of what educators do every day. Set frequency goals and make time to invest a few minutes each day in keeping your social media sites updated and lively.

“I think the hardest part is getting started,” France says, but it’s “worth it in the end!”

Social media can help all educators because it’s like a magical support group in the cloud that you can bookmark and revisit from time to time when you need reinforcement, Clement says.

“Teaching is hard,” she adds. During the eight years she taught high school before moving into higher education, there were no support groups and no social media sites. Today, teachers can find—or even create their own—support groups and networks to share and find reinforcement online.

Your Guide to Finding a Job in Education

 

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