When Oswego East High School’s administration team decided to promote a school wide hash tag for use on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Vine, we really just wanted a fun way to hear more student voice and connect our ever-growing community of students, teachers, and parents. While #oewolfpride did these things, the hash tag also evolved in some unexpected ways.
Our first big success with the # came when our principal, Dr. Louis Lee, told students that he would play the NCAA basketball tournament for them during lunch if they retweeted his message 250 times. When students acted and admin delivered on their promise, the entire student body seemed to finally understand that the # was actually empowering them with a direct line of communication to their principal in a way they had never experienced before.
We began realizing how excited the kids were about the # when a student sent out this Tweet addressed to our rival high school across town:
Obviously, students were proud to have such a “cool” principal, and even though it was his first year on the job, Dr. Lee’s popularity continued to grow. #oewolfpride was often filled with Tweets complimenting him and his devotion to the school.
And, as the year continued, Dr. Lee became like a celebrity! Everywhere he was, students wanted to snap and share a picture with their favorite principal.
Sadly for the students, Dr. Lee announced his resignation from Oswego East High School this spring, less than one year after he entered the building. No one could fault him; he was recruited by a neighboring district to fill an Assistant Superintendent opening. When students heard the news, they turned to Twitter – the one place they knew their words would be seen by each other, but also by him. Some students were angry, feeling as though they had been duped into this whole “school pride” thing. Others were sad, and told Dr. Lee he was irreplaceable. The thoughtful students in the school wished him luck, and those that were sensible argued, “Of course someone else would want him. He is awesome, and now he can do great things for even more kids.” One student went so far as to try to convince Dr. Lee to stay much in the same way he had started this whole #oewolfpride revolution:
The next day I sat down with Dr. Lee to reflect on the Twitter storm that had happened the night before. He was humbled, and slightly embarrassed by the outpouring of attention over his announcement, but that is when it hit me – we gave the students something special when we introduced #oewolfpride; we gave them a direct line of communication to their principal. In a school of nearly 2200 students, he was able to meet them where they were; he listened to their voices, celebrated their successes, communicated to, about, and with them. Through #oewolfpride, Dr. Lee showed the students that he truly cared, and in return, they loved him right back!
I often think about what school would be like in the fall if he were to return as principal. Dr. Lee made enormous strides this year to gain the trust, respect and adoration of not only the student body, but of the teachers and parents in the organization as well. Where might they have followed him next? What successes might his leadership have brought about?
I would challenge you, reader, to think about how you might use social media to connect with your students, colleagues, parent groups, and communities. Feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments below!