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Affecting Change Through Social Media: Tips to Stay Engaged and Informed After Convention is Over
Each year, Convention inspires school psychologists young and old to advocate for our profession and connect with one another through social media. Whether on the ground in Atlanta or by scrolling through media platforms throughout the week at home, it was difficult not to be impressed by the level of engagement between NASP and its members due to social media. Amidst the bustle of the week, I found myself thinking of how powerful we could be together if we all remained as present on social media as we were at Convention... of how much change we could accomplish by staying informed and connected with one another on a regular basis, all year long. So, I caught up with three individuals who are doing just that!
Katya Sussman, Ed.S., serves as the Advocacy Chair for the Missouri Association of School Psychologists (MASP) and as a member of the NASP Leadership Development Committee. She practices as a school psychologist in the Greater St. Louis Area and is an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Alongside her many roles in the field, she is an avid Tweeter, and credits the 2017 NASP Public Policy Institute (PPI) for introducing her to the interactive platform as an effective means to bolster her advocacy efforts. Here is one powerful example of how Katya recently utilized her presence on Twitter to advance talks of trauma-informed legislation in Missouri: "I follow the legislators in my state that are "education friendly" and am constantly sending them resources, tagging them in important tweets, liking and retweeting their agendas, and responding to relevant tweets. Over the summer, one of the Missouri Senators that I follow closely and have met and talked to multiple times, shared an article on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma-Informed Care. I quickly liked, retweeted, and commented on her tweet. By that evening, we were emailing one another about creating meaningful legislation around ACEs and Trauma-Informed care. We are still in talks, and I will be working with her over the summer with the goal to present our ACE's Trauma-Informed Legislation next Session. All of this was initiated via Twitter and my efforts to create and maintain a relationship with this Senator."
Peter Faustino, Ph.D., is a practicing school psychologist based in the Greater New York City Area. He has held several leadership roles at the state and national association levels and is the NASP Delegate from New York and one of the Northeast Representatives on the NASP Government and Professional Relations (GPR) Committee. Peter sees social media as a powerful tool for advocacy for its ability to "amplify" school psychologists' voices on popular national issues, such as children's mental health, and for how it provides us with "greater access to stakeholders and legislators." He recently traveled to Salt Lake City to provide a GPR advocacy training to the Utah Association of School Psychologists (UASP). During the training, the association wanted help to connect with their state's PTA, so Peter encouraged them to tweet key messages and tag the UPTA. "Within minutes other stakeholders were replying asking for a connection," Peter recalls. This example demonstrates that a "simple and targeted strategy" like tweeting can ignite collaboration and cause "a huge ripple effect in the state."
Brittany Johnstone, Ed.S., is an early career professional who works as a practitioner in Baltimore City, Maryland. She is on several committees within the Maryland School Psychologist Association (MSPA) and is actively involved with a caucus of the Baltimore Teachers Union. In these roles, she uses social media to support the outreach of educators who are dedicated to social justice and democracy within the union and its processes. Brittany views social media as "the most efficient way to communicate" because it enables us to "quickly and efficiently" disseminate advocacy messaging out to others in our communities. She shared a striking reflection on how her social media presence opened up opportunities to share how she supports students in Baltimore who are exposed to lead on the NASP Social Justice Podcast and then was contacted to collaborate on a Communique article with a colleague dealing with similar issues in Flint, Michigan: "The chain of events is a really powerful example for me about the connectivity that social media enables. My tweets about social justice and equity caught the attention of someone in a position of influence and they were able to share their platform with me and from there I was able to connect with someone over our shared professional conundrum and then from there we were able to educate our colleagues and peers about an issue we feel has been neglected in school psychology publications and research. The chain of events started with me using Twitter to express my commitment to social justice as a school psychologist and ended with a colleague and I having the opportunity to educate others about something that has become increasingly important to me as someone working in historically neglected communities."
Instead of viewing advocacy work as another "job" in her day, Katya sees it as part of her self-care routine. While she primarily uses Facebook as a means to keep MASP members informed of events and legislation on their association's page, Katya sets aside 30-45 minutes daily, typically in the evening, to post relevant resources on Twitter or conduct a "check-in" of sorts. Though she does not schedule tweets, she aims to post a themed tweet each day/week, including links to books or articles, plugs about other users to follow, as well as motivational quotes to live by. Brittany stays connected on Twitter throughout the day and added some helpful practices for those who help to manage their state association's accounts: "For MSPA, we have a policy of drafting a tweet and sending a screenshot of the draft to our group chat. Once you get a thumbs up from another team member, you are free to post."
Why is it important to have a social media presence in our profession? Peter noted that Twitter has become "an interesting tool that affects the national conversation of many issues," so having a social media presence as a school psychologist means that we can contribute to that conversation and promote a balanced perspective on topics that affect us and the students we serve. Brittany commented that it is "a way to share the human that lives behind the professional school psychologist," in that it empowers her to connect with others in and outside of the field about topics that are of great importance to her as a person and practitioner, such as "social justice, equity, prison abolition, or labor organizing." Katya shared the following: "because of social media, I have been given the opportunity to write resources for NASP, present with colleagues at other state association's conferences, collaborate on a number of different projects with colleagues I have met on Twitter, and have worked my way into a NASP leadership position, all in part due to my advocacy, collaboration, and leadership on social media."
For those just starting out using social media as a tool for advocacy, Peter gave some helpful advice: "Some professionals simply like and retweet, others comment on key messages and yet others will craft their own advocacy messages. All three levels of advocacy are effective and provide value." If you're looking for more interaction with other users, become involved with Education Twitter Chats. This is a favorite method of advocating for school psychology for Katya. Twitter chats occur daily, and some of her favorites are AppleEDEChat, EdChat, UrbanEdChat, pbischat, and bekindEDUChat.
Here are some influential people to follow on Twitter to get you started:
· Dr. Charles Barrett (@_charlesbarrett) "is always providing great resources and making us think about hard systemic topics as school psychologists." - Katya
· Dr. Eve Ewing (@eveewing) "inspires me to always center students in my work because if I'm not listening to youth or considering their perspectives than I'm probably talking over them or centering myself." - Brittany
· Liz Kleinrock (@teachandtransf1) is an LA-based teacher who promotes equity and inclusion in the classroom. Be sure to check out her TED Talk!
· Dr. Sherrie Proctor (@sherrielproctor), Associate Professor of School Psychology at Queens College, CUNY, regularly provides a wealth of information and sparks meaningful conversations surrounding various social justice issues.
· Dr. John Kelly (@jkellyphd), NASP Past-President, is constantly sharing content relating to NASP happenings, advocacy efforts, and more.
· SchoolPsyched! (@BeccaComiz) "for the sheer volume of relevant information she shares" and "trustworthy and up-to-date information" on all things school psychology. - Peter
· Kelly Vaillancourt (@kmv79) is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at NASP and keeps us in the know on all topics legislation and policy related.
· Child Mind Institute (@ChildMindInst) is a non-profit whose focus is on helping children with mental health disorders.
· Amanda VenDerHeyden (@Amandavande1) is a wealth of knowledge for those interested in MTSS, academic interventions, and student achievement.
And don't forget to follow Katya, Peter, and Brittany on Twitter, too!
· Peter Faustino @Dr_Faustino)
· Brittany Johnstone (@SchoolPsychMsB)
· Katya Sussman (@KJSchoolPsych)
If you're new to social media and don't know where to start, don't worry - NASP has you covered! Here are a few tips from NASP's social media experts for effectively using social media as part of your advocacy efforts:
Complete your profile. Having a photo and a complete profile on social media is extremely important. It shows that you're a real person and adds a human element.
Identify who and what to follow. You want to be following the right people and organizations to effectively use social media. It's important that you follow people who are active in your state and local politics or education scene. To start, do a little research and find community education activists or organizations, local reporters or news outlets, researchers and other professionals in your field, and elected officials who are active on social media and follow. Also, some platforms (like Twitter and Instagram) let you track hashtags-utilize this by finding your state's political hashtag, city/town hashtag, and other relevant ones and follow them. Often people will use these hashtags to contribute to the conversation about a specific topic and if you're following these hashtags you might discover new people to follow and interact with.
Be social. It sounds simple, but an overlooked component of social media is interacting with other people's content. It is one way you to share your message with others and to grow your followers. The more followers you have the greater impact your content has, and one way to grow a following is by interacting with others. The content you're interacting with doesn't necessarily have to be related to what you're advocating for. If someone posts an inspirational quote that you like, comment on it and/or share it! If you see a Twitter chat happening on a subject you're an expert in (e.g., school safety), participate! An example of how this can work can be found here.
Personalize and use visuals or links when possible. Do not rely on auto-generated content. Consider revising and personalizing any content someone asks you to share. Also, posts that include videos, photos, and links perform better than posts with just text. If you're talking about things topical to school psychology, share a link to any of NASP's or your state association's resources on the topic.
Plan, if you can. You're busy and sometimes you might not even think about using social media as part of your day-to-day activities (and it doesn't have to be). But it's important to be active and participate when you can. As much as you can, use platforms like Buffer or TweetDeck to schedule content that you want to share. Some examples of this are if your association is hosting an advocacy day or if you find an interesting article you want to share with your followers. If you plan schedule posts, make sure they will still be topical when you plan on sharing it and do your best to make sure it's appropriate in the event something happens.
Consider your social media an extension of your personal/professional life. You are not and should not be anonymous when you're on social media. A good rule of thumb is to not say anything to someone on social media that you wouldn't say to them in person. This includes oversharing and ad hominems. Think of social media as participating in a conversation with someone on the street - you wouldn't unnecessarily annoy them or personally attack them (the internet is forever!). Remember, there's always a person on the other end of the conversation. Additionally, avoid sharing information that could give away the identity of a student or teacher you're working with. Even on social media, you're an employee of a school system and could be open to scrutiny from administrators, colleagues, and even the media.
Patience is key. Building a following takes time, so don't get frustrated. And if you find social media for advocacy complicated or you're not tech savvy, it's ok to decide that using it is not for you. You should also feel free to take little steps towards becoming a full-fledged advocate on social media. Consider keeping (or making) your account private and following along with the conversation happening. Once you're more comfortable using the platforms, you can make your profile public.