Social Media

Professional Networking While Tweeting
By MICHAEL LUBELFELD/School Administrator, October 2018

ALL SUPERINTENDENTS SHOULD participate in at least one Twitter chat a month for purposes of modern leadership and connectivity. Just as Meryl Streep’s film character, publisher Katherine Graham, said in “The Post“ about “the news [being] the rough draft of history,” a Twitter chat among professionals serves as the rough draft of a leader’s improvement journey.

Twitter chats themselves are free. The principal cost is the time one spends or the opportunity cost for not participating. The first chat in which I participated probably seven years ago was Iowa Ed Chat, or #IAedchat. It took place on a Sunday night, at 8 p.m. Central Time. Once I got the hang of it from observing the first set of tweets by others, I was hooked into this new social mode of learning and professional growth.

Fast forward to today. Nick Polyak, a fellow superintendent in suburban Chicago, and I proudly co-host a national Twitter chat each month known as “#suptchat.” It has become known as the international chat on Twitter for superintendents and was developed with the support of like-minded, digitally connected superintendents, including Daniel Frazier of Iowa and Pamela Moran of Virginia. We all saw an increasing need to continue the in-person conversations we had started with our colleagues from various corners of the country.

Twitter stood out as the best means for making that a reality. Twitter chats engage school leaders on a plethora of education and leadership topics. Today, #suptchat takes place on the first Wednesday of every month (except July) from 7-8 p.m. Central Time.

Advance Questions
A Twitter chat works with people searching for the hashtag, which is a word preceded by a # symbol. A hashtag is like a bookmark or a file folder. Any content posted via Twitter using a hashtag, such as #suptchat or #edchat or #studentvoice, will be housed (forever) in Twitter with that label.

To participate in a chat, you might want to use a free service — Hootsuite or Tweetdeck as two examples — to organize the multiple messages from a hashtag or several hashtags in a coherent manner.

Typically, the hosts of a Twitter chat will share questions in advance so participants have a chance to consider responses prior to the chat. The chat itself involves reading others’ 280-character contributions. Archives of previous chat content are accessible when we have the time or need. If you send a text message @suptchat to the “phone number” 81010, you will be connected to a reminder group that alerts you to the questions a few days in advance of each chat.

Personal Growth
Connecting like and unlike minds from around the nation and beyond for personal and professional growth drives change and makes educational experiences more meaningful. Many of my friends from the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program are active participants on Twitter and on chats. A regular component for leadership training and for graduate school coursework on leadership is exposure to a Twitter chat.

I have learned about current leadership challenges faced by colleagues around the nation through chats. I have learned about the latest books through chats. I have built personal connections with leaders in multiple fields of leadership through chats. Professional chats on Twitter sometimes can lead to the formation of niche groups relating to student wellness or women in educational leadership. I occasionally join other chats, including the #IASPA chat, which is the Twitter chat run by the Illinois Association of School Personnel Administrators, #satchat, #AASA chats and others.

When looking for a Twitter chat to join, #suptchat is a great place to start, but you also may be interested in following @AASAHQ and your state association on Twitter to see what other chats are available.

Perhaps the best way to find a chat on Twitter in an area of interest is to follow more people on social media to expand your personal learning network. For example, if you wish to follow superintendents, check the people I follow and follow them too. And don’t be afraid to create a Twitter chat of your own one day.

MICHAEL LUBELFELD is superintendent of North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Ill. He is co-author with Nick Polyak of Unlearning Leader and Student Voice. Twitter: @mikelubelfeld