What do the following tweets have in common?
Okay, they’re all tweets by me, obviously, but there’s something else: all three are tweets that were favorited by one of my students.
I’ve written before about teens at my school defying prevailing wisdom that teens don’t tweet, about my initial freakout when I discovered students were following me and my ultimate decision to keep tweeting publicly. Since then, things have really exploded: more than a quarter of my 546 followers are current or former students.
Now, I should mention that not all Twitter ventures in my school have been entirely successful. This fall, administrators decided to move daily announcements from their traditional morning reading over the intercom to social media. The school unveiled its official Facebook page and Twitter feed, and one of our assistant principals started condensing announcements into 140 character versions. We even enlisted student models with laptops and phones to produce a slick print marketing campaign.
And then the whole thing flopped.
At this point our AP still tweets, but the announcements are back on the intercom. Why? Students recoiled at the idea of an authority figure being able to read their tweets if they followed the official feed. (Which I still find a little odd, because they could easily set their profiles to private, and many students with public profiles still follow me and a handful of other teachers in the building.)
So why are my tweets more successful? I’m sure some of it has to do with my utter lack of authority–students don’t see me as someone who’s out to bust them for what they say. (I don’t think the administration is, either; they have better things to do than sift through Twitter feeds all day. But I also don’t follow students back, so I only see their tweets if they’re directly mentioning me with an @ reply.)
No doubt some of the appeal is that I do actively try to be funny. Turning something frustrating from my day into a joke helps me take control of the situation, and it’s better than stewing about it for hours. And when my students retweet or favorite a pithy remark about finding gross things hidden in the library or keyboards stripped of their keys, maybe their followers will think twice (or at least once) about making someone else clean up after them.
Ultimately, though, I’m most excited about Twitter as a tool to connect with my students when other methods fail. During standardized testing the library was closed for three days in a row, our bell schedule was disrupted and we couldn’t make any announcements over the intercom. So when a copy of Hunger Games was returned, at first I didn’t know how to get it to the student who was next in line. Ordinarily I have the main office page students during passing periods, but it was early in the morning and I wasn’t sure when we’d be able to make announcements again. So, on a lark, I tweeted the student, who I knew was following me, to let him know that I’d leave the book in the main office.
How do you use Twitter with teens?