I am Ashley Chatmon, a digital media production major and media studies minor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Recently I was able to join AASA in person for the National Conference on Education in the Social Media Lounge. I've been working with AASA’s online technologies team since the summer of 2021. As a child of two educators, a covid high school graduate, and distance employee, I have experienced first-hand the power that social media can have in public education.
Though, I had attended AASA’s legislative advocacy conference in 2021, I was blown away by the atmosphere of NCE. Everywhere I turned, there were reunions, introductions, and a determined hopefulness for the future of education. In the social media lounge I was able to meet and learn from an a all-star line-up of superintendents.
I was not surprised, but nonetheless disheartened to hear of the trials facing superintendents. Threats, confusion, and unnecessary politicalization of education that undermines the needs of children for the political gain of the adults are in full force online and in person. At the end of a session one superintendent remarked, “thanks for the therapy.” Iam honored that I was able to contribute to providing the comfortable atmosphere of the lounge so that it could be a safe space for superintendents to honestly share their hardships.
Though my view is of an outsider, it is clear that the superintendency is a solitary position. The opposition to the already difficult role seems impossible to master alone. The social media lounge is proof that just because the superintendency can be a solitary position, does not mean you have to do it alone. When superintendents support each other on social media, they can reach across the country and be an encouragement. Over the course of NCE I heard of many superintendent friends meeting in person for the first time. I heard of how one person's positive quote and another’s workout video became the wind that pushed someone else's sails just a little further on a hard day. Panelist Baron Davis shared with attendees that social media is how he found his “tribe”, a community of superintendents he could lean on and learn from.
In many ways, Public Education has become a target. It is up against a mass of negativity. But as Matt Montgomery advised, “You're not going to fix the negativity on social media,” luckily this is not the goal.
As much as social media can become a tool to create a community of superintendents, it is also a chance to tell the world of the positive work still going on despite the negativity in the world. This was the resounding refrain of our experts: tell your story, or someone else will.
Social media is a great way to show that there are still champions for public education and they are doing great work for their communities. It shows the world outside of the education field what is truly going on in schools, and it has the power to build trust with onlooking students and stakeholders by showing them that they have a leader who truly cares. In one panel, Susan Enfield said it well, “You can show people that you’re actually listening. That's the beauty of social media, you can help people in your community feel seen and heard.”
It was an honor to join our nation's heroes as they committed themselves to bettering themselves for the sake of their community. It was exciting to meet the US Secretary of Education, and see an inspiring performance from Alex Boye. However, what I will be walking away with the most, is the potential of social media to bridge gaps in the coverage of public education by elevating the good work that is being done everyday. I encourage all to get online and be the champion of your district, you never know what student, parent, or fellow superintendent could be encouraged.